The Early Years | 2006 — 2008
Let’s be perfectly honest, The EPIC Storm (TES) had very humble beginnings — dating all the way back to 2006. At the time, Bryant Cook became fascinated with Storm combo playing everything from Nausea in Legacy ([[Helm of Awakening]] based combo) to Pitch Long (Draw seven cards combo) in Vintage. Each and every deck tested contained fundamental flaws that caused a lack of to desire continue to pilot them. Between bouncing from deck to deck, Bryant gained a deep understanding of what made each deck “tick” or operate on a fundamental level. More importantly, strengths and weakness became apparent. At this time, Bryant wanted to try to combine all of the strengths into a single deck and have as few weaknesses as possible. With this in mind, he attempted to build a very different kind of Storm deck. The first iteration of The EPIC Storm (the deck list can be found below) was posted to mtgthesource in August of 2006.
The initial deck list 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 also key features of this iteration. Fortunately, TES didn’t have to wait very long for some more powerful cards to be printed in sets such as Coldsnap and Time Spiral. These sets added [[Rite of Flame]], [[Empty the Warrens]], and [[Grapeshot]] which immediately replaced the clunky creatures in the deck list while also providing alternative win conditions to [[Tendrils of Agony]].
[[Grapeshot]] was the secondary win condition that caught the eye of many, not [[Empty the Warrens]]. It didn’t take long for the Storm community to realize how difficult 20 storm was to generate — the Storm engines of the time, [[Diminishing Returns]] and [[Ill-Gotten Gains]], were not equipped for such a feat. Despite the utility of [[Grapeshot]] killing problematic creatures in the main deck, it wasn’t worthwhile, and that’s when [[Empty the Warrens]] came into the picture. A win condition that could be cast without a lethal amount of Storm that was a recurring source of damage. [[Empty the Warrens]] drastically improved difficult matchups at the time as very few decks had effective answers to a horde of [[Goblin Token]]s. Additionally, there were next to no playable answers on the stack for Control decks. Keep in mind that [[Flusterstorm]] did not exist, which meant Control decks were forced to consider an effect such as [[Stifle]] or lose to the Storm mechanic.
One problem that plagued The EPIC Storm from the beginning was inconsistent draws. A variety of different options were explored before [[Brainstorm]] was settled on, which in today’s age appears to be a no-brainer. At the time, however, there were very few shuffle effects in TES, and the complimentary cantrips such as [[Ponder]] or [[Preordain]] hasn’t been printed yet. Around the same time- frame, it was becoming apparent that the protection suite of [[Xantid Swarm]] and [[Defense Grid]] had run their course. TES moved from permanent-based protection to stack-based disruption spells in [[Duress]], [[Thoughtseize]], and [[Orim’s Chant]].
Shards of Alara to New Phyrexia | 2008 — 2011
When Shards of Alara was printed, it had a poignant effect on Storm with the printing of [[Ad Nauseam]]. Decks were incentivized to change how they were built in order to support the brand new Storm engine. Simply put, [[Ad Nauseam]] changed the face of storm combo all on its own. The immediate change was to cut almost every card with an expensive mana cost including the additional storm engines: [[Diminishing Returns]], [[Slithermuse]], and [[Infernal Contract]]. Even [[Empty the Warrens]] was removed from the main deck only to live in the sideboard and cards such as [[Thoughtseize]] and [[Simian Spirit Guide]] were cut completely due to life total-based reasons.
Upon the release of M10, there were some major rules changes. The first change was players were no longer able to float mana through their upkeep to their draw step as mana emptied in all phases and steps. For TES, [[Mystical Tutor]] could no longer place [[Ad Nauseam]] on top of the library, allowing the Storm pilot to sacrifice a [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] to assist in casting the five-mana instant. The second rules change was cards such as [[Burning Wish]] could no longer retrieve exiled cards, which meant if a [[Ponder]] was placed under a copy of [[Chrome Mox]], it couldn’t be retrieved using TES’s favorite red sorcery (sorry [[Rite of Flame]]!). That’s not all that happened with Magic 2010. There was also the printing of [[Silence]].
At first glace, both [[Silence]] and [[Orim’s Chant]] seemed very comparable and it makes sense. They have a similar function, but the big difference of the time was [[Silence]] was able to protect Storm players through a [[Leyline of Sanctity]] that was on the battlefield. This was huge! Look at the deck lists from this era. They start with three copies of [[Orim’s Chant]] and a single [[Silence]] all the way to just playing four copies of [[Silence]].
Right before Grand Prix: Columbus in 2010, The EPIC Storm began to experiment with a different mana-base. The traditional lists only ran five-color lands such as [[Gemstone Mine]] and [[City of Brass]], TES was now playing a “split” mana-base that also consisted of dual lands ([[Underground Sea]] and [[Volcanic Island]]) and fetch lands ([[Polluted Delta]] and [[Bloodstained Mire]]). These changes to the lands allowed for more shuffle effects for [[Brainstorm]] and [[Ponder]] while improving the consistency of the draws, it was really a big step in the right direction. While these innovations were happening to TES, Mystical Tutor was banned.
This is the point in time in which Bryant Cook made Top 8 of Grand Prix: Columbus. This was very important for the deck’s success moving forward. With an influx of players interested in TES, there were more minds working on the deck. This lead to better ideas and strategies being discussed.
The EPIC Storm didn’t have to wait too long following Bryant’s success at Grand Prix: Columbus to get even better with [[Gitaxian Probe]]. The Phyrexian one-mana sorcery took away the “scare game” from [[Island]]-based decks allowing The EPIC Storm to know most of the opponent’s hand at all times. When [[Gitaxian Probe]] was added, a change that was exclusive to The EPIC Storm (other Storm variants had removed [[Burning Wish]] from their lists) happened — removing [[Tendrils of Agony]] from the main deck! This made [[Empty the Warrens]] the sole win condition with the starting 60 cards. This change would later define The EPIC Storm for years. The free Storm count from [[Gitaxian Probe]] was a huge boon to generating a lethal amount of [[Goblin Token]]s on the first turn.
Return to Ravnica & The “Miracles” Era | 2012 — 2017
This era was the beginning of “The Golden Age” of Legacy as many refer to the early years of this time period. The EPIC Storm gained a few critical cards in order to stay competitive with the metagame — [[Abrupt Decay]] and [[Past in Flames]]. With Avacyn Restored introducing the “Miracle” mechanic, the four-color [[Counterbalance]] and [[Sensei’s Divining Top]] deck gained a better answer to creatures in [[Terminus]]. This improvement quickly lead to Miracles becoming the best deck in the format and [[Abrupt Decay]] was vital for answering [[Counterbalance]] as it cannot be countered. This also applied to other cards such as [[Chalice of the Void]], but [[Abrupt Decay]] was more than an answer to those two problematic cards. It’s versatility allowed The EPIC Storm to consolidate the sideboard answers, no longer was TES forced to run answers to artifacts and enchantments or creatures. [[Abrupt Decay]] did it all, including removing a very popular card of the time, [Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]]! It’s easy to see why Storm was thrilled to have the clean answer, but it was probably more thrilled with the next card.
With the release of Innistrad came [[Past in Flames]] as pseudo [[Yawgmoth’s Will]]. Deck lists from this time frame were only running [[Ad Nauseam]] as a “Storm engine”, but most still had a copy of [[Ill-Gotten Gains]] in the sideboard as a [[Burning Wish]] target. [[Past in Flames]] replaced the in-frequently used [[Ill-Gotten Gains]]. While [[Past in Flames]] was an improvement (especially against blue decks) it wasn’t without imperfection. While [[Dark Ritual]] and [[Rite of Flame]] worked well with the new addition, cards like [[Chrome Mox]] were awkward as not only did it not go to the graveyard, they also stopped other cards from going there as well. Ultimately, this meant [[Past in Flames]] was TES’s tertiary game plan for longer games.
A release that impacted Storm variants in a very different manner was [[True-Name Nemesis]]. While The EPIC Storm didn’t play the Merfolk creature, it was deeply impacted by its presence in Legacy. [[True-Name Nemesis]] allowed blue-based strategies to focus less on opposing midrange and aggro decks as it stopped most of those decks cold. This meant that these [[True-Name Nemesis]] decks began to cut sideboard slots that were traditionally dedicated to those matchups. Those slots instead they went towards combo decks. An increase in resistance from the combo perspective was terrifying. Cards such as [[Meddling Mage]] and [[Ethersworn Canonist]] saw a dramatic spike in play. UWx decks began attacking combo on two different fronts — permanent-based disruption and spell-based answers.
It was very apparent that the protection suite The EPIC Storm was playing wasn’t fighting back on these angles which was a major issue. [[Silence]] was only focusing on spell-based disruption with [[Duress]] to compliment it. TES needed to adapt. Instead of playing [[Duress]], TES took on a card with a similar ability but more versatile in the way it fought back — [[Cabal Therapy]]. The synergy with [[Gitaxian Probe]] was an obvious benefit, but it was more important that [[Cabal Therapy]] could discard [[Ethersworn Canonist]], [[Meddling Mage]], and [[Force of Will]]. The synergy that was even secretly better was pairing [[Cabal Therapy]] with [[Empty the Warrens]]. This revolutionized the protection package along with making the primary win condition vastly stronger.
In 2014, The EPIC Storm cut [[City of Brass]] and [[Gemstone Mine]] entirely from the deck for an additional “fetch lands” and searchable lands. This change was brought forth because TES had moved on without [[Silence]]. As described above, [[Silence]] wasn’t fit for the way opponents were combating The EPIC Storm. It was time to move on to something that was better suited to do so. Additional discard were better for this, meaning [[Duress]] came back as another way of looking at the opponent’s hand for [[Cabal Therapy]]. TES had found something special with [[Gitaxian Probe]], [[Cabal Therapy]], and [[Empty the Warrens]] (even with only two copies in the 75). With cutting the five-color lands, TES had to find a way to squeeze a green source into the deck somewhere to support [[Abrupt Decay]]. More often than not this mean into the sideboard. This era saw The EPIC Storm change from a true five-color deck down to a three-and-a-half (green in the sideboard) color deck.
The “Deathrite Shaman” Era | 2017 — 2018
In 2017, [[Sensei’s Divining Top]] was banned and with this, [[Counterbalance]] fell out of favor. This allowed The EPIC Storm to cut the green splash of [[Abrupt Decay]] and [[Xantid Swarm]] to become a true Grixis deck. This change brought back an old favorite — [[Echoing Truth]]! Not needing a fourth color to answer problematic permanents was a huge benefit. Additionally, the Grixis mana base allowed TES to play basic [[Island]]. This was the first time in the history of The EPIC Storm that the deck has been able to successfully run a pair of basic lands. The more stable mana base helped the deck avoid the ever-present [[Wasteland]]!
This was the point in time where TES really leaned into the [[Empty the Warrens]] plan. While the trifecta of [[Gitaxian Probe]], [[Cabal Therapy]], and [[Empty the Warrens]] was found during the tail-end of the “Miracles era”, it was perfected during the era of [[Deathrite Shaman]]. The EPIC Storm ran a full-compliment of [[Empty the Warrens]] to beat the boogie-man of the format — Grixis Delver. AJ Kerrigan was a driving factor in returning to the four copies of [[Empty the Warrens]] that the deck once ran in the early days of TES. This plan was so effective at times that The EPIC Storm even attempted to run [[Goblin War Strike]]!
Just over a year later, there would be another Wizards of the Coast announcement of a banning in Legacy. The reign of [[Deathrite Shaman]] would come to an end, but not without bringing [[Gitaxian Probe]] along with it. This meant that once again, The EPIC Storm would have to adjust its protection package. [[Cabal Therapy]] just wasn’t effective enough without the free information from [[Gitaxian Probe]]. This meant that the much-loved synergy with [[Empty the Warrens]] would also come to an end. TES turned to an old friend from the pre-[[Ad Nauseam]] days — [[Thoughtseize]].
The greater problem with [[Cabal Therapy]] was that there weren’t enough effects to look at the opponent’s hand that were playable (especially with the printing of [[Force of Negation]] later on to make the decision even more difficult!). Instead, [[Thoughtseize]] was a guaranteed hitwith the same life-loss as [[Gitaxian Probe]].
The “London Mulligan” Era | 2019 — Current
In 2019, some changes in deck-building philosophy took place. The EPIC Storm began to re-evaluate previously printed cards such as [[Hope of Ghirapur]] (played over the sideboard copies of [[Xantid Swarm]]) and [[Mox Opal]]. After a lot of testing, it was determined that The EPIC Storm was just short on playable artifacts to support the Metalcraft ability. Two critical things then happened — the printing of Modern Horizons and the London Mulligan. Modern Horizons introduced [[Echo of Eons]] which immediately lit up eyes due to its synergy with [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]]! That said, it required an overhaul to the protection package as [[Echo of Eons]] refills the opponents hand. Because of this, an old favorite in [[Defense Grid]] had returned.
[[Defense Grid]] protected the freshly drawn hand off of [[Echo of Eons]]. Additionally, [[Hope of Ghirapur]] actually did a better job of protecting [[Echo of Eons]] for a few reasons. First, if the opponent had mana available, they couldn’t interact. Second, if The EPIC Storm was forced to pass the turn, the opponent couldn’t cast non-creature spells due to the clause on [[Hope of Ghirapur]]. This meannt being able to untap on the next turn without too much punishment.
With [[Defense Grid]] being in the main deck and [[Hope of Ghirapur]] in the sideboard, this brought the artifact count up enough for [[Mox Opal]] to raise eyebrows again. That’s when the London Mulligan came into play! It allowed the decision to put undesirable cards such as additional copies of [[Chrome Mox]] or [[Mox Opal]] on the bottom of the library which dramatically increased their value. The London Mulligan really raised the ability to find cards like [[Defense Grid]], [[Hope of Ghirapur]], or enough artifacts to support [[Mox Opal]]. These pieces in conjunction created the new era of The EPIC Storm.
Right before 2020, there was a major breakthrough in how the deck was constructed. “Do we really need to play [[Infernal Tutor]]? was the starting point. The EPIC Storm had been struggling to reach a sufficient artifact count for [[Mox Opal]] when the the shell of the deck was being re-evaulated — at this point major changes happened. [[Wishclaw Talisman]] made perfect sense to raise the artifact count. It also worked very well with the newly printed [[Echo of Eons]], but somewhat poorly with [[Empty the Warrens]]. If The EPIC Storm was going to be playing an [[Echo of Eons]], discard spells made less sense especially with [[Veil of Summer]] dominating the format. That’s when the decision was made, “if you can’t beat them, join them! The EPIC Storm now could ignore [[Veil of Summer]] completely.
If interested in more about these changes, visit the links below:
- 12-09-2019 The New EPIC Storm by Alex McKinley on theepicstorm.com
- 12-11-2019 Using The EPIC Storm Data by Bryant Cook on theepicstorm.com
- 01-02-2020 TES vs. ANT — 2020 by Bryant Cook on theepicstorm.com
One of the subtle things to appreciate about these lists was all of them nodded back to the early era of The EPIC Storm. Think back to [[Diminishing Returns]], [[Orim’s Chant]], and additional mana from [[Simian Spirit Guide]]. Those three had been replaced with more modern versions of these cards — [[Echo of Eons]], [[Veil of Summer]], and [[Mox Opal]] which work more efficiently with the deck’s game plans.
This is the beauty of The EPIC Storm — its ability to evolve with an ever-changing metagame.