A card for card breakdown, organized into categories based on roles, explaining why each card belongs in The EPIC Storm and alternative viable options as well.
A card for card breakdown, organized into categories based on roles, explaining why each card belongs in The EPIC Storm and alternative viable options as well.
Burning Wish – As mentioned previously, one of the defining features of The EPIC Storm. An incredibly powerful and resourceful element that is quite diverse in what it can do. Burning Wish allows TES to not play answers for problematic cards by either providing a solution or an alternative route to victory. One of the greatest things Burning Wish does for this deck is it allows us to not have to play Tendrils of Agony in our main deck as it tends to be a dead card in most games. This can be said for a couple of the cards in our sideboard, that’s the true beauty of Burning Wish – its whatever we need it to be. Our wish board is comprised of storm engines, win conditions, protection and a few solution based cards. We try not to play an entire sideboard full of Burning Wish targets as doesn’t create the greatest value out of our available slots. Generally, I try to have no more than six or seven Burning Wish targets. Lastly, having included Burning Wish into our deck, our threat density is very high in comparison to other storm decks meaning that we spend less time finding our threats with cantrips which leads to a faster kill.
Infernal Tutor – We’ve talked about how its important to hold priority when casting this card and using Lion’s Eye Diamond in response, but I can’t stress it enough! its also crucial to remember that you can cast it for a secondary copy of something in your hand. I’ve watched other storm pilots completely blank on this in the middle of a game with tunnel vision. When I’m revealing a card to Infernal Tutor it's usually some sort of mana, I typically don’t reveal protection or draw spells. Sometimes, its just to shuffle my deck after a Brainstorm or a Ponder.
Brainstorm – An incredibly tough to play spell that can make or break a game all on its own. Brainstorm can often fix hands needing two specific types of cards and finding them at once or simply putting a few situationally bad cards back. An important feature of this card is that in match-ups with discard is very relevant to preserve these and use them to protect the best cards in your hand. When playing TES sequencing your cantrips is extremely important, but there are also games where you’re one card off from winning on turn one. I’m all about the first turn of the game main phase Brainstorm – I’ve received scoffs from some players but it's perfectly acceptable in my eyes. The situation needs to call for it, I wouldn’t just snap off a Brainstorm for the sake of it. I tend to Ponder before I Brainstorm a majority of the time. Collaborating with a shuffle effect is generally the way to go with Brainstorm so that you’re not drawing dead spells. There are times when sitting on Brainstorm for multiple turns while you continue to draw spells just to put back worse ones is the correct thing to do.
Gitaxian Probe – In my opinion one of the most underrated cards in Legacy and one of the best. This card is simply incredible! Its free, increases speed, adds consistency and raises the storm count all while providing information. This card helps take away what I call the “scare game” with Force of Will, before Gitaxian Probe a lot of hands went off without knowing if the opponent had enough to stop us. While that still happens from time to time, it's significantly less than it has been in the past. One of the best things about Gitaxian Probe is its usefulness with Lion’s Eye Diamond, while this may sound wrong – it's not. In hands without the ability to cast a “Tutor effect” that can cast a Brainstorm or Ponder, it's possible to play out a pair of Lion’s Eye Diamond, cast Gitaxian Probe for free (hold priority and break the Lion’s Eye Diamonds) and then cast the “Tutor effect”. Empty the Warrens or Ad Nauseam also work in these situations. The last thing is also the most obvious thing about Gitaxian Probe, it has incredible synergy with Cabal Therapy.
Ponder – Our cantrip with the best odds of finding the card(s) we’re looking for! Ponder digs the deepest out of the cards we opt to play, unlike Brainstorm or Gitaxian Probe – Ponder can see up to four unique cards. Because of this, in hands where we have both Brainstorm and Ponder it's usually best to cast Ponder first as mentioned above. Like Brainstorm, the best utilization of Ponder is often with a Polluted Delta or another fetchland. Ponder like a fetchland can be used as a shuffle effect for Brainstorm as well, it's just not as ideal. I’d like to note that I’m very aggressive with my shuffling off of ponder, players often think that I must’ve been looking at bad cards often because my decision doesn’t take too long. But if those cards aren’t what the hand needs, why contemplate?
Cabal Therapy – A Cinderella story in The EPIC Storm, originally added as a few copies to the sideboard because of its ability to discard both Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Force of Will. The card now finds itself as a full compliment and the main protection spell in the main deck. Between the ability to discard all types of cards and its synergies with Gitaxian Probe along with Empty the Warrens to effectively “Mind Twist” the opponent – it has found itself a home. With the shifting metagame attacking storm on two different axes both permanent based hate as well as spell based permission, Cabal Therapy is the absolutely the best viable option as it avoids life loss and is capable of discarding both of the attacking strategies.
Duress, Thoughtseize – I go back and forth on these cards depending on the metagame. If Death and Taxes or Maverick type decks are fashionable, Thoughtseize tends to be the better card. Duress is better if blue-based decks without too many disruption creatures are in favor. Keep in mind that Cabal Therapy is there to discard those! This slot in the deck is really a flex spot for disruption, in the past it has been for Silence in builds that have more colors.
Empty the Warrens – I’ve already said so much about this card, but let’s reiterate. TES opts to play Empty the Warrens over Tendrils of Agony because Empty the Warrens is rarely a dead draw – the issue with Tendrils is it does absolutely nothing until it's lethal. Meanwhile casting Empty the Warrens with six or seven storm will easily win a game. Having a win condition in the deck that needs less storm and costs less than five (Ad Nauseam) dramatically increases the speed of TES often giving it games where we appear belcher-esque. Empty the Warrens also has great synergy as mentioned with Cabal Therapy – tearing apart the opponent's hand while simultaneously protecting our goblins.
Past in Flames – The EPIC Storm has adapted to support Past in Flames by adding in a single Cabal Ritual, while it may seem unlike that you have both - it happens more than one might think. A common line would be to have Past in Flames in your hand and then use Infernal Tutor (paired with Lion's Eye Diamond) to find the Cabal Ritual. Cast the Cabal Ritual and then flashback Past in Flames. Past in Flames is really in the deck to provide a stronger mid-to-late game while being very good against both discard strategies and blue based decks.
Ad Nauseam – The EPIC Storm is the best Ad Nauseam deck in legacy. Between Chrome Mox to act as additional copies of Lotus Petal as well as a lower average converted mana cost, Ad Nauseam has an increased power level here. Our primary storm engine and game plan, we’ve catered our deck to maximize its potential.
Keep in mind that Ad Nauseam is an instant, you can cast the spell in response to a Brainstorm or on an end step. There’s also the “Chrome Mox trick” which is to play Chrome Mox, in response cast Ad Nauseam, in response to that activate Lion’s Eye Diamond. You do this in order to be able to imprint after Ad Nauseam has resolved and is only viable if you didn’t have a card you could imprint prior to casting Ad Nauseam.
Rite of Flame – A defining feature of The EPIC Storm, this card is one of the reasons this deck is blazing fast. The fact that it costs one mana is important for two reasons – the first being that it's easier to cast in comparison to other “Ritual” effects available that cost two and the second reason would be its converted mana costs’ impact on Ad Nauseam. Something that is often overlooked when viewing Rite of Flame and that’s the ability to make two red mana, which is important because it generates just enough to meet the red mana requirement for both Burning Wish and Empty the Warrens in a single turn. Two Rite of Flame is also the perfect amount of mana to cast our primary win condition – Empty the Warrens! Things become a little more interesting when you have more than two Rite of Flames. Revealing Rite of Flame off of Infernal Tutor is one of my favorite things to do, especially with a line to cast Past in Flames. Often times Rite of Flame acts as a Dark Ritual and in special occasions is even better!
Mana Generated by Rite of Flame
Cast off a single red mana source, in one turn.
Dark Ritual – One of the most powerful cards in this deck and Legacy as a whole. If I have multiple “Ritual” effects in my hand, including a Rite of Flame, I will cast Dark Ritual second as it is an instant. This is incredibly helpful when it comes to playing around Daze, Spell Pierce and sometimes Flusterstorm.
Mana Generated by Dark Ritual
Cast off a single black mana source, in one turn.
Lion's Eye Diamond – The card is responsible for most turn one wins and is a total game changer. When using Lion’s Eye Diamond it's crucial to know that you must maintain priority and activate it in response to your other spell before passing priority/checking to see if there are any responses. When using Lion’s Eye Diamond paired with Infernal Tutor, it's important to note that you can cast Infernal Tutor with card in hand and then use Lion’s Eye Diamond to become hellbent by activating the artifact.
It’s important to play LED at opportune times, I play this card very differently depending on the match-up. Sometimes I let it sit on the table and threaten the opponent – while in other situations I hide it in my hand or on top of my deck. I typically play it right before my Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish, to maintain priority, this way it cannot be destroyed by effects like Abrupt Decay.
Lotus Petal – Initial mana sources with no drawback that are almost always a pleasure to see – especially off of Ad Nauseam. They, like Chrome Mox, enable speedy early turn combos and generate storm for free. It’s important to keep in mind that they also fix our mana, especially in post-board games where we’ve sided in Abrupt Decay!
Chrome Mox – A card that divides TES from ANT. We opt to take the faster route as a trade off to a late game consistency. Chrome Mox provides additional early mana to create fast Empty the Warrens or Ad Nauseams. Chrome Mox is a huge part of why we have such an incredibly high success rate after Ad Nauseam as it creates initial mana sources post-Ad Nauseam to continue comboing out for the turn. Lists recently have bounced back and forth on the number of Chrome Mox in the main deck.
Cabal Ritual – A card from early lists that has made its way back in, the reasons being that the additional mana it provides generates enough mana to easily Burning Wish for Dark Petition to search for Ad Nauseam. The second reason would be that it turns Past in Flames from a decent tertiary option to a very powerful option in a single card. Players often refer to it as additional copies of Lion’s Eye Diamond as it generates three mana, I try to not look at it that way as it takes careful planning with this deck to reach Threshold. Keep in mind that Lion’s Eye Diamond and Cabal Ritual have great synergy, if you have the mana readily available, cast your Burning Wish or Infernal Tutor, in response cast Cabal Ritual as it too is an instant and then hold priority and break Lion’s Eye Diamond to generate the Threshold required for Cabal Ritual.
Polluted Delta , Bloodstained Mire – There’s so much to be said about Polluted Delta and Bloodstained Mire in TES, their primary function is to provide the proper color of mana required to win the game. However, they’re so much more than that, fetchlands are shuffle effects for cards like Brainstorm or Ponder which help with the quality of our draws. They also protect our mana from effects like Wasteland or Rishadan Port, which is key considering TES is a deck with fewer lands than it’s other storm counterpart.
With the inclusion of Bayou, these fetchlands are required as they’re the only ones able to search for all of our lands.
Underground Sea , Volcanic Island, Badlands – Searchable lands that provide the colors the deck needs without any drawbacks (unlike the five-color lands of the past). The numbers on these have changed over the years, initially none were in the deck, then two, then three for a long time and recently up to four or five. The numbers on each dual land are something of a controversial thing, I used to prefer an even two and two split on Volcanic Island and Underground Sea. Currently, I’m splitting my red sources between Volcanic Island and Badlands.
Swamp – An essentially indestructible mana source than we can search for in the face of Wasteland that provides the mana needed to cast hand disruption. Against white decks, it is also an unkillable Swamp for lists with Massacre.
Gemstone Mine – Crucial for remaining more than four colors, its more important that it doesn’t deal damage in comparison to City of Brass or Mana Confluence. Every point of life matters in a deck that’s primary storm engine is Ad Nauseam. Gemstone mine is necessary to support white cards in older builds of TES.
City of Brass, Mana Confluence – These cards are typically in builds with Silence, right now the metagame isn’t full of Stifles or Spell Snares. Meaning that Silence might be waiting quite a while to be playable again. Its possible to play these five color lands in the current lists, but I believe that they would be worse than the additional Volcanic Island or fetchlands.
Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn - These two fetchlands just aren’t viable when running a basic Swamp. Scalding Tarn even more so with Bayou seeing play as the deck’s sole green source over Tropical Island.
Tropical Island - The problem with Tropical Island is that it doesn’t set up the deck for a second turn win after casting a Xantid Swarm on turn one. Bayou does this more effectively producing a black mana on turn two making the deck only needing an additional combo colored mana rather than two. If TES were to run a second green source, it would likely run a second Bayou as the deck runs Bloodstained Mire to search for Swamp. Tropical Island cannot be searched for using Bloodstained Mire.
Island - Basic Island suffers the same problem that Tropical Island does, in that it doesn’t produce combo colored mana on turn two. I was running Island for awhile, but then I realized that there are only eight spells that require blue mana and then we often side out some number of Ponder. Meaning that postboard there are only six to seven spells that actually need Island, which isn’t enough in my opinion. ANT can get away with Island because it runs a higher density of blue cards as well as only being two colors.
City of Traitors, Crystal Vein – These lands are typically in builds that replace Chrome Mox with additional lands. The thought process is that these “Sol Lands” will help play around cards like Daze or Spell Pierce. I don’t prefer this as an option, the reason being is that TES is a four color deck that aims to win as fast as possible. Chrome Mox helps provide needed colors where these lands do not. Chrome Mox also improves the speed of the deck where additional land drops do not and can also stop hellbent for Infernal Tutor.
Rain of Filth – A one-time ritual effect that is good anytime after turn one, before then it’s pretty much useless. After turn one, it’s at worst a Rite of Flame and potentially a fifth Dark Ritual. The downside in what I see in this turn is ideally, we’re not planning for turn three. This card often competing with a Chrome Mox slot. One of the benefits of this deck is it’s ability to win blazing fast, I don’t want a card that doesn’t help in match-ups where the game is decided on the second turn.
Preordain – A potential additional cantrip, my issue with running more than twelve cantrips is that you will find yourself continually drawing into more of them. Not to mention that Preordain is worse in comparison to Ponder or Brainstorm at digging for cards that we’re looking for.
Silence, Orim's Chant – A card that was shelved for its ineffectively at answering problematic cards in the current metagame and not being proactive. Mainly Hymn to Tourach and the popularity of other discard spells have left us to play a more proactive spell ourselves – either Duress or Thoughtseize. The benefit of these discard spells is unlike Silence or Orim’s Chant is that they can also disrupt the opponent's game plan if they have nothing hindering us.
Inquisition of Kozilek – This card would be the best discard spell we could play if Force of Will did not exist. However, that’s the card that concerns us the most. It discards Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Hymn To Tourach and Vendilion Clique which is incredible, but we need it to do more in my opinion.
Lim-Dul’s Vault – This card has several things wrong with it in my eyes. The first being that it doesn’t put any cards to your hand, it uses life as a resource which is a problem with Ad Nauseam being our primary storm engine. The last thing being this card is very mana intensive for a Vampiric Tutor effect.
Death Wish, Grim Tutor – Both of these cards have the same problem in my eyes, they’re costly tutor effects that are dreadful to see pre or even post Ad Nauseam. They both have the upside of being able to find any silver bullet from our sideboard, but I don’t believe that the life loss or mana are worthwhile.
Dark Confidant, Sensei's Divining Top – These cards are mentioned every once in awhile between the main deck or sideboard, however, in either place they unfortunately have the same flaws. Both cards are rather slow in nature which is something TES isn’t build to do, TES is inherently quick and these cards are the opposite strategy. What they do accomplish is fighting opposing discard spells and counter magic.
Bayou – The reason we play Bayou is that if searched for on turn one to cast Xantid Swarm (in post-board games), it would then provide a combo color mana on turn two. If unable to combo, providing black mana allows you to be able to disrupt the opponent's’ game plan with hand disruption. These reasons are why Bayou is selected over Tropical Island or Taiga. In match-ups where Xantid Swarm is valuable, we also need to be fast meaning we want access to black mana as soon as possible.
Abrupt Decay – A terrific answer for all general storm-hate permanents. Mainly there for Chalice of the Void and Counterbalance, Abrupt Decay is also brought in sometimes for hate creatures. Even more so in lists that don’t play Pyroblast for Meddling Mage. In recent days the number has increased from three to four to help fight off the Eldrazi decks!
Hurkyl’s Recall – Recently added due to the rise of the Eldrazi decks in Legacy. Chalice of the Void and Thorn of Amethyst pose a real threat to the storm Archetype, Hurkyl’s Recall is here to help against those cards. That said, it won’t fix the match-up on it’s own. Thought-Knot Seer and Warping Wail are still decent at stopping us, there is no easy fix. Hurkyl’s Recall is also applicable against MUD based decks and Lands.
Thoughtseize – Disruption that can be fetched by Burning Wish. Sometimes it will replace Duress in the main deck in post-board games in match-ups with more creatures. Its inclusion over Duress and Inquisition of Kozilek is based on its ability to hit Force of Will and hate creatures. The life loss is an issue dependant on the speed of the metagame. It’s often sided in over Empty the Warrens in combo match-ups.
Void Snare – A bounce effect that can be found by Burning Wish. This M15 card is incredibly important as it allows TES to not have to sideboard in Chain of Vapor against decks that may or may not play Leyline of Sanctity. There’s also the added benefit of being a card that can answer a variety of anti-storm permanents, something we haven’t had in a single card that was a ‘Wish target before.
Grapeshot – People tend to think this is only for showboating and proving a point, while it can be, its certainly the best option for its slot. Its original purpose was to be an alternative kill that wasn’t creature based if Tendrils of Agony wasn’t an option – it happens more than one would think. Especially in the match-ups with Griselbrand. However, its primary function now is creature removal that can also kill the opponent and be retrieved by Burning Wish. Grapeshot is sided in during match-ups where we want to side in Pyroclasm type effects but also doubles as a potential win-condition. It also clears blockers and finishes off the opponent after an Empty the Warrens.
Empty the Warrens – By playing a copy of Empty the Warrens in our sideboard we effectively play five copies in our seventy-five. For our fastest combo option with synergy in our deck, it's best to play the most copies we can while not decreasing our Ad Nauseam percentages.
Past in Flames – Our tertiary option in The EPIC Storm, while powerful - our deck doesn’t utilize it as well as ANT does. However, we do have the tools for it to be effective if we build towards it. Often the card requires some foresight if you plan to use it. Part of the beauty of past in Flames is being able to flash back multiple Gitaxian Probes in the same turn, dramatically increasing storm while rebuilding our hand. Another amazing thing about this card is that it also has flashback making it extremely effective against blue-based decks.
Tendrils of Agony – Moved to the sideboard as its usefulness in the main deck was decreasing. I found that most of the time that I was using Tendrils of Agony, that I had more than enough available mana to Burning Wish before casting it. There are times when sideboarding into a copy of Tendrils of Agony is best, usually these are match-ups with an overload of mass removal for our goblin tokens.
Dark Petition – Essentially a sideboard Infernal Tutor to be able to find the main deck Ad Nauseam. This is a nine mana line that comes up more often than people notice, but it’s important to remember the spell mastery on this. Dark Petition is typically much stronger in builds that run Cabal Ritual as gathering the necessary mana is much easier.
Xantid Swarm – I can’t stress this enough, but for some reason people don’t listen – do not side in Xantid Swarm against blue-based decks with damage based removal - it’s acceptable if their removal package is Swords to Plowshares or Terminus based as they’ll likely be sided out. Xantid Swarm’s intended purpose is for match-ups such as Show and Tell variants and Reanimator with the occasional High Tide, Merfolk or decks with Sensei’s Divining Top.
Chain of Vapor – A versatile answer to Leyline of Sanctity as Abrupt Decay cannot destroy Leyline of Sanctity. Chain of Vapor as doubles as a cheap and effective answer to hate creatures such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Gaddock Teeg.
Massacre – Our best option against Death & Taxes! Its searchable with Burning Wish and free to cast! With a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in play it may most a little more, but it does kill Thalia even with a Mother of Runes in play. Additionally, you can also cast this card occasionally against Elves or Goblins as they’ve been known to splash a Savannah or Plateau respectively. Lastly, Massacre does have a real casting costs for dire need – don’t forget it!
Pyroblast – Added during times when the number of Meddling Mage rises from blue decks, Pyroblast is fantastic! The beauty of Pyroblast over Abrupt Decay in those match-ups is that if they don’t draw hate creatures/permanents worth killing you’re not stuck with dead cards in your hand. Pyroblast can then be used as protection to stop their permission spells. Currently, Pyroblast is in the sideboard due to Show and Tell variants not passing the turn anymore. Making Xantid Swarm a worse option than Pyroblast.
Carpet of Flowers – With blue decks more popular than ever, it’s not shocking to find this card in our sideboard. Its great against all of the blue tempo decks and even against Miracles! In slower blue-based matches it’s fine to swap these with the main deck Chrome Mox to give us better late game power.
Pyroclasm – Sided in against Meddling Mage and Thalia based strategies as well as Elves, against the Meddling Mage strategies it can be used as a way to slow down their tempo.
Pithing Needle – A card that’s gained recognition for its inherent synergies with cards in our main deck such as Gitaxian Probe, Duress and Cabal Therapy. Mainly added for the Miracles and Griselbrand match-ups, although, it has applications in other places as well. Including tempo decks naming Wasteland or even Deathrite Shaman or even Death & Taxes naming Rishadan Port or Aether Vial. Anything to protect your lands or slowing the opponent down! An interesting play with Pithing Needle is to cast Gitaxian Probe, see that they kept a one-land fetchland hand and then name that land.
Swan Song, Flusterstorm – These cards are often looked at to answer the combo mirror, they act as Silence did when we still played white. They have an additional role occasionally against control decks but are worse there than Pyroblast as Pyroblast can answer a Counterbalance or Meddling Mage.
Dread of Night – This card is terrific at killing creatures such as Mother of Runes, Aven Mindcensor and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The problem with it is that it would take multiples to kill Ethersworn Canonist, Gaddock Teeg or Meddling Mage. It just doesn’t do enough in my eyes.
Surgical Extraction, Reanimate – One of our worst match-ups is Reanimator, these cards were an attempt at solving that issue. Surgical could be sided in against other decks, but neither were used in enough applications to warrant the sideboard space.
Karakas – A card we attempted to play during Maverick’s reign of terror in Legacy with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Gaddock Teeg everywhere. It also has functionalities against larger Legendary creatures from Reanimator and Sneak Show variants. I see it as a liability nowadays as Griselbrand is often put into play, the opponent will draw a handful of cards leaving you in an awful position before the creature is returned to its owner’s hand.
Wipe Away, Krosan Grip – Additional answers to Counterbalance against Miracles, the problem is that they’re so costly they’re unreliable against almost any other deck. A few times a year I consider cutting green entirely from the deck, when doing so, I often look at Wipe Away to replace the Abrupt Decay slots in the sideboard.
Reverent Silence – Reverent Silence is a Burning Wish target that could replace Void Snare as an answer to Leyline of Sanctity as well as Counterbalance.
Hull Breach, Revoke Existence – Answers to Leyline of Sanctity that can be retrieved using Burning Wish while being flexible enough to hit cards like Chalice of the Void. I prefer a more flexible card in this slot, Chain of Vapor. These cards are likely permanently on our bench with the printing of Void Snare.
Echoing Truth – A former staple before the printing of Abrupt Decay for its ability to answer multiple copies of the same permanent. We could play a copy of this spell over Chain of Vapor, but being one mana more is an issue as we side in Chain of Vapor against Thalia, Guardian of Thraben decks. A fine card, I’m just not convinced its worth it anymore.
Meltdown, Shattering Spree – These cards are similar to the pair of cards above, except that they’re targeting Chalice of Void as well as “sphere” effects in Trinisphere and Sphere of Resistance. It comes down to personal preference and I would rather have a more diverse answer.
Doomsday – I’ve tried to get this card to work, I really have. But one of the biggest issues with it is that it forces you to play suboptimal cards such as Ideas Unbound. Even then, its mana intensive and uses life as a resource. Our additional storm engines ideally wouldn’t rely on the same resource as our main game plan.
Ill-Gotten Gains – In an age with Deathrite Shaman and an increased amount of instants or responses from almost every deck, this card is almost unplayable unless its an already favored match-up. A real relic of the past.
Diminishing Returns, Reforge the Soul, Time Spiral – This slot was cut when Infernal Tutor was moved to the sideboard. I could see myself possibly going back to it at some point, the problem is these cards aren’t very consistent. Each card has benefits over the other, but I prefer Diminishing Returns over the other two.