Let’s be perfectly honest, The EPIC Storm had very humble beginnings - dating all the way back to 2006. At the time I became fascinated with storm combo playing everything from Nausea in legacy (Helm of Awakening based combo) to Pitch Long (Draw 7 cards based combo) in Vintage. Each and every deck I tested had fundamental flaws that caused me to lose the desire to continue playing them. Although, somewhere traveling between decks I started to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each deck I piloted. I decided that I would attempt to build my own storm deck. I wanted to try to combine all of the strengths into a single deck and have the fewest weaknesses that I possibly could. Then in August 2006, I posted my initial storm deck on mtgthesource.
The deck opted to use creatures such as Priest of Gix and Trinket Mage (Searching for Lion's Eye Diamond) for acceleration; Helm of Awakening and Second Sunrise were key features of this iteration. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long for some more powerful cards – Coldsnap and Time Spiral were right around the corner. These sets added Rite of Flame, Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot which immediately replaced the creatures in the deck list and also provided alternate win conditions.
Grapeshot was the secondary win condition that I set eyes on, not Empty the Warrens. It didn’t take long to realize how difficult that twenty storm was to generate, even if Grapeshot was excellent at killing problematic creatures in the main deck. It just wasn’t worthwhile, that’s when I turned to Empty the Warrens. A win condition that could be cast without a lethal amount of storm that was recurring damage – it wasn’t immediately obvious to me. Empty the Warrens improved all of the difficult match-ups for the deck at the time - Landstill, Threshold, Solidarity and even Mono-Blue Control. Many of the decks of the time weren’t prepared for that many creatures one turn one and very rarely played anything that wasn’t spot removal.
One problem that had plagued The EPIC Storm from the beginning was inconsistent draws. I looked over a variety of different options before I settled on Brainstorm, which in today’s age appears to be a no-brainer - but at the time there were very few shuffle effects in the deck. Around the same time it became apparent that the protection suite of Xantid Swarm and Defense Grid were no longer getting the job done. The deck moved from permanent based protection to a pair of one casting cost spells in Duress or Thoughtseize and Orim’s Chant.
There was a period of time where there wasn’t much printed that influenced Legacy Storm until the release of Ad Nauseam in Shards of Alara. Ad Nauseam changed the name and face of storm combo all on its own, initial changes were to cut almost everything expensive in mana cost including additional storm engines - Diminishing Returns, Slithermuse and Infernal Contract were now absent from the main deck. Empty the Warrens was temporarily pushed to the sideboard and cards such as Thoughtseize and Simian Spirit Guide were cut completely due to life total based reasons.
In the months surrounding release of M10 there were some changes, the first being the printing of Silence and then there were rules changes. The one that hurt TES the most was that players could no longer float mana through the upkeep into the draw step. This meant that Mystical Tutor became much worse since it could no longer find Ad Nauseam, then during the upkeep – break Lion’s Eye Diamond and then cast the black instant during the draw step. Not too long after this, Mystical Tutor was banned.
Around the same time a new mana base was experimented with, consisting of dual lands (Underground Sea and Volcanic Island), "fetch lands" (Polluted Delta and Bloodstained Mire) and five-color lands (Gemstone Mine and City of Brass). This mana base gave The EPIC Storm shuffle effects along with some additional consistency. Even more consistency was added later with Gitaxian Probe, which also took away the “scare game” as I call it from Island based decks. Allowing the storm pilot to know most of the opponents’ hand at all times. When Gitaxian Probe was added, a change was made that is currently exclusive to The EPIC Storm because of Burning Wish – Tendrils of Agony was moved to the sideboard! This made Empty the Warrens the primary win condition.
Down the road there were a few card printings that had big impacts on The EPIC Storm, the first being Abrupt Decay. A cheap, uncounterable answer to the permanents that hurt the deck the most – Counterbalance, Chalice of the Void and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben! The inclusion of Abrupt Decay over the long time staple, Echoing Truth, relied heavily on the ability to answer these cards. The second card was something that gave TES a stronger and more robust late game, the card I'm talking about is Past in Flames. This allowed the deck to be able to grind down on attrition based blue decks by blowing past a single counterspell and then also provided a strong option against discard decks as they naturally filled the graveyard. The last card with an impact wasn’t an inclusion for TES, but for the enemy - True-Name Nemesis. While The EPIC Storm doesn’t mind when an opponent casts a vanilla creature, it allowed blue-based decks to focus less on the mid-range and aggressive strategies and more on combo due to its indestructible nature. Cards such as Meddling Mage and Ethersworn Canonist saw a dramatic spike in play. UWx decks began attacking combo on two different fronts: with permanent base disruption and with spell based answers.
Our protection package wasn’t fighting back on both angles, this was a big issue. It was only focusing on spell based disruption with Duress and Silence. TES needed to adapt, instead of playing Duress The EPIC Storm took on a card with a similar ability but more versatile in the way it fought back – Cabal Therapy. The synergy with Gitaxian Probe is easy to see, but it was crucial that Therapy could discard Ethersworn Canonist or Meddling Mage as well as Force of Will. The synergy that isn’t immediately obvious to new-comers of TES is the ability to flashback Cabal Therapy with Empty the Warrens. Making both our protection package along with our primary win condition vastly stronger.
In 2014, The EPIC Storm cut City of Brass and Gemstone Mine from the deck for an additional "fetch lands" and additional searchable lands. This change was brought forth because TES had moved on without Silence. At the time, Silence wasn't effective enough against a field full of discard spells and hate creatures. Additional discard is just better at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be back. With cutting the five color lands TES had to add a green source to the deck to be able to support it’s sideboard cards - Tropical Island / Bayou. These changes have brought TES from being a five-color deck down to a three and a half color deck, but that’s the beauty of TES - its ability to evolve with the metagame. If the metagame shifts towards Stifle decks, we’ll likely see our favorite white card again!