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 seven cards combo) in Vintage. Each and every deck I tested had fundamental flaws that caused me to lose the desire to continue playing them. Somewhere in that time I was bouncing around from deck to deck, however, I started to understand deck the strengths and weaknesses of each deck I piloted. I wanted to try to combine all of the strengths into a single deck and have the fewest weaknesses as possible. With this in mind, I attempted to build my own storm deck, and posted my first iteration in August of 2006.
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 also key features of this iteration. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long for some more powerful cards as Coldsnap and Time Spiral hit the shelves not too long after. 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 20 storm was to generate, despite the utility Grapeshot killing problematic creatures in the main deck. It just wasn’t worthwhile, and 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 effective against 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 on turn one and very rarely played sweepers.
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. At the time, however, there were very few shuffle effects in the deck. 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 every card with an expensive mana cost including additional storm engines such as Diminishing Returns, Slithermuse and Infernal Contract. 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 with the first being the printing of Silence. There were also rules changes including players no longer being able to float mana through the upkeep into the draw step, which hurt The EPIC Storm quite a bit. 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 in the works. It consisted 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, which improved every more later when Gitaxian Probe was printed. The Phyrexian one-mana sorcery took away the “scare game” as I call it from Island based decks allowing the storm pilot to know most of the opponent’s 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 in the main deck.
Down the road there were two 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 with an impact wasn’t an inclusion for TES, but for the enemy in 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 — permanent-based disruption and spell-based answers.
Our protection package wasn’t fighting back on both angles which 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 Cabal 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. The addition of Cabal Therapy made 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 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 was 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 and/or Bayou. These changes have brought TES from being a five-color deck down to a three-and-a-half color deck.
In 2017, Sensei’s Divining Top was banned. With this, Counterbalance fell out of favor. This allowed TES 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 is a huge benefit. Additionally, the Grixis mana base allows TES to play basic Island. This is the first time in the history of The EPIC Storm that the deck has been able to successfully run a pair of basic lands. This more stable mana base helps the deck avoid the ever-present Wasteland!
Just over a year later, there would be another banning in Legacy. In July of 2018, Wizards of the Coast announced that Deathrite Shaman as well as Gitaxian Probe were banned. This meant big changes to The EPIC Storm as cards like Cabal Therapy were no longer efficient enough. Instead, the deck turned to an old friend from the pre-Ad Nauseam days – Thoughtseize. The problem with Cabal Therapy was that there weren’t enough effects to look at your opponent’s hand that were playable (especially with the printing of Force of Negation to make your decision on what to name more difficult!). Instead, you could have a guaranteed hit with Thoughtseize with the same life-loss as Gitaxian Probe. It made perfect sense!
In 2019, some changes in deck-building philosophy took place. We 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. Then two big things happened — the printing of Modern Horizons and the London Mulligan. Modern Horizons introduced Echo of Eons which immediately lit up eyes due to it’s synergy with Lion’s Eye Diamond! That said, it made the team question its protection package as Echo of Eons refills our opponents hand. Because of this, we returned to an old favorite, Defense Grid. Defense Grid protects you while your opponent draws a brand new hand, but Hope of Ghirapur actually protects you even better as there is no clause for your opponents to cast spells if they have enough mana. On top of this, they can’t even cast non-creature spells on the following turn due to Hope of Ghirapur‘s ability! Meaning you’ll most likely be able to untap without too much punishment. Defense Grid being in the main deck and Hope of Ghirapur in the sideboard brought up the artifact count enough for Mox Opal to raise eyebrows again. That’s when the London Mulligan came into play! You were able to put undesirable cards like extra copies of Chrome Mox or Mox Opal on the bottom of your library which dramatically increased their value. The London Mulligan raised your 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 hit, 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 we began to reevaluate the shell of the deck — at this point a lot of 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 we’re going to be playing an Echo of Eons, discard spells made less sense especially with Veil of Summer dominating the format. That’s when we realized, if you can’t beat them, join then! The EPIC Storm now could ignore Veil of Summer completely.
If you’re interested in more about these changes, I recommend checking out these links:
- 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
A small thing I enjoyed about this version of the deck is that it felt like and played similarly to the early days of The EPIC Storm. Think back to Diminishing Returns, Orim’s Chant, and additional mana from Simian Spirit Guide. They’ve been replaced with modern versions of these cards in Echo of Eons, Veil of Summer, and Mox Opal which work more efficiently with the deck’s current plans.
This is the beauty of The EPIC Storm, its ability to evolve with an ever-changing metagame.