Beyond Rite of Flame

Over time, it is common for decks to evolve and cut cards that were once essential to their strategy. The EPIC Storm cut [[Infernal Tutor]] for [[Wishclaw Talisman]] to great success in 2019. Identifying cards that can seem to be linchpins, but can be upgraded is essential to evolving and continuing to improve in new metagames. [[Rite of Flame]], while being a headliner card for TES, is one of those cards that the team has attempted to remove for almost three years. The cutting of [[Rite of Flame]] is similar to the addition of [[Mox Opal]]: it seems to be the next evolution of the deck, but there may be some printing missing to solidify the change.

Why cut Rite of Flame?

[[Veil of Summer|]]
[[Ad Nauseam|]]
[[Rite of Flame|]]

On its face, [[Rite of Flame]] appears to be one of the better pieces of fast mana in The EPIC Storm. After almost every change to the deck that has been made in the past year, however, red mana was deemphasized each time to the point where most combo turns only need zero or one red mana. In the past, multiple red mana were needed to cast fast [[Burning Wish]] for [[Empty the Warrens]]. [[Empty the Warrens]] itself has fallen from the play set during the [[Gitaxian Probe]] era to just a single copy in the sideboard.

On many combo turns, especially against [[Daze]] decks, the choke point often becomes mana and initial colored sources. Because the best protection spell in the deck, [[Veil of Summer]] requires green mana on the combo turn, even safe sequencing may allow a [[Force of Will]] effect and a [[Daze]] to stifle a combo turn.

For the purposes of [[Ad Nauseam]], [[Rite of Flame]] still has a converted mana cost of one. If there was another artifact with converted mana cost zero that TES could play, it would be a much easier swap. [[Rite of Flame]] also makes finding a red mana and a black mana post [[Ad Nauseam]] more likely to be needed.

Replacing Rite of Flame

[[Mox Opal|]]
[[Carpet of Flowers|]]

[[Mox Opal]] was actually one of the first cards that was considered for taking [[Rite of Flame]]’s slot. The list looked actually similar to current TES, except it had cards like [[Hope of Ghirapur]] in it. One of the main problems with that list was consistently having cards to pitch to [[Chrome Mox]] and overall mana production. This started to show some of why [[Rite of Flame]] is so powerful. Not even [[Dark Ritual]] makes as much mana as [[Rite of Flame]] in numbers. As was later discovered, playing [[Rite of Flame]] alongside [[Mox Opal]] has worked wonderfully.

One of the innovations for beating RUG Delver has been to add a play set of [[Carpet of Flowers]] to the sideboard of The EPIC Storm. [[Carpet of Flowers]] fulfills several jobs in that matchup. It helps protect against [[Wasteland]] by being able to produce any color of mana as well as filtering extra green mana into a more useful color. It also provides an additional play on turn one. In reality, TES does not have that many “one drops”. [[Ponder]], a mox into [[Wishclaw Talisman]] or [[Defense Grid]], trying to go off, or simply passing are main openings of the deck. By adding [[Carpet of Flowers]] as an option, it gives TES more options to spend mana on the first turn or two of the game.

In my Showcase Qualifier Finals list, I chose to cut [[Rite of Flame]] entirely for that event and the testing leading up to it. The field I was testing for was even more blue than average for an open event so I believed that preboarding against all of the blue decks made sense. I replaced the four copies of [[Rite of Flame]] with two copies of [[Carpet of Flowers]], an extra fetch land and a [[Chain of Vapor]]. Against non blue matchups, the extra copies of [[Carpet of Flowers]] could be pitched to [[Chrome Mox]] before being sideboarded out. By cutting [[Rite of Flame]] and moving some of the [[Carpet of Flowers]] to the main deck, there was sideboard space for three copies of [[Thoughtseize]]. This is the main trade off to look at. By sacrificing the raw mana potential of [[Rite of Flame]], some of the non blue match ups became better, especially when opponents mulliganed aggressively looking for a lock piece.

[[Chrome Mox|]]
[[Chain of Vapor|]]
[[Cabal Ritual|]]

Another option to replace [[Rite of Flame]] would to be to replace it with more “moxen”, leaving the deck with a few flex slots. There have been a few lists that have shown success with this approach. Max “wonderPreux” Carini played the fourth [[Chrome Mox]], a [[Cabal Ritual]], a [[Defense Grid]], and a [[Carpet of Flowers]] to an MTGO Challenge top 8. In a stream, Bryant Cook played the fourth [[Mox Opal]] and [[Chrome Mox]], with the remaining slots being a pair of [[Chain of Vapor]]. Both of these approaches attempt to lean in to what The EPIC Storm is best at: casting [[Ad Nauseam]] and [[Echo of Eons]].

Breaking down these cards individually, playing more “moxen” makes [[Ad Nauseam]] better because it provides more initial mana sources post [[Ad Nauseam]] and allows [[Ad Nauseam]] to draw more cards by lowering the average converted mana cost of the deck. One of the issues with adding more “moxen” is that while [[Rite of Flame]] nets at minimum one mana for one cards, [[Mox Opal]] and [[Chrome Mox]] sometimes require multiple cards to produce mana. While this is not an issue after resolving a Storm engine, it can sometimes make it harder to reach six or eight mana to cast [[Ad Nauseam]]. Pairing the extra “moxen” with [[Chain of Vapor]] makes sense. [[Chain of Vapor]] can double as a Storm engine and a ritual by bouncing moxen and sacrificing lands to net mana.

The singleton [[Cabal Ritual]] is an interesting inclusion. Historically, [[Cabal Ritual]] has not been one of the better slots for The EPIC Storm. TES has a hard time hitting Threshold due to having fewer cantrips and fewer effects that go to the graveyard than ANT. Its converted mana cost of two hurts a lot off of [[Ad Nauseam]] as well. In a post [[Rite of Flame]] world and how some matchups work, however, [[Cabal Ritual]] starts to make more sense. Having [[Wishclaw Talisman]] or [[Defense Grid]] get countered, along with early copies of [[Lotus Petal]] occasionally ending up in the graveyard, Threshold is more achievable than it first appears. TES can also borrow a trick from ANT and crack a [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] in response to [[Cabal Ritual]] to help build up cards in graveyard. Even without Threshold, [[Cabal Ritual]] nets the same amount of mana as [[Rite of Flame]]. The play patterns of TES may have changed enough where [[Cabal Ritual]] makes sense. An interesting play pattern flaw with [[Cabal Ritual]] may be actually costing two mana and potentially using other colored mana may be an issue on the combo turn.

Rite-less TES

Most likely, the cards to completely replace [[Rite of Flame]] have not been printed yet. Despite this, testing lists without it still makes sense. Due to how inbred the metagame is, it may be that [[Rite of Flame]] is simply out of meta. The effect it can make on the game can be replaced by cards better suited to attack what other strategies are presenting. If I was to play a list without [[Rite of Flame]] in a big event, it might look something like this:

the epic Storm

Main Deck

  • 4 [[Burning Wish]]
  • 4 [[Wishclaw Talisman]]
  • 4 [[Brainstorm]]
  • 4 [[Ponder]]
  • 1 [[Tendrils of Agony]]
  • 1 [[Ad Nauseam]]
  • 1 [[Echo of Eons]]
  • 4 [[Veil of Summer]]
  • 2 [[Defense Grid]]
  • 4 [[Dark Ritual]]
  • 4 [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]]
  • 4 [[Lotus Petal]]
  • 4 [[Chrome Mox]]
  • 3 [[Mox Opal]]
  • 1 [[Cabal Ritual]]
  • 1 [[Carpet of Flowers]]
  • 3 [[Bloodstained Mire]]
  • 3 [[Verdant Catacombs]]
  • 2 [[Polluted Delta]]
  • 1 [[Underground Sea]]
  • 1 [[Tropical Island]]
  • 1 [[Volcanic Island]]
  • 1 [[Taiga]]
  • 1 [[Badlands]]
  • 1 [[Swamp]]


  • 3 [[Carpet of Flowers]]
  • 3 [[Abrupt Decay]]
  • 3 [[Thoughtseize]]
  • 1 [[Chain of Vapor]]
  • 1 [[Grapeshot]]
  • 1 [[Empty the Warrens]]
  • 1 [[Tendrils of Agony]]
  • 1 [[Echo of Eons]]
  • 1 [[Peer into the Abyss]]