Reading the Ropes – Getting More Mileage from Tutors

At this point in the series, I feel that I’ve covered a lot of the very basic concepts that go into piloting The EPIC Storm, and so now it is time to start looking at some more complicated or unorthodox ideas. The next few articles will touch on some ideas that might seem innocuous, but can have a major impact on your win percentage with the deck. It is likely the case that we are not yet at the point where it makes sense to touch on the most intricate of ideas, but I still think there are topics that I would not classify as completely introductory that are easy enough for even a new storm player to understand.

For this article, I want to cover a relatively easy to digest topic that, once I started gaining a much better understanding of, helped me to win a very large percentage of games that I don’t believe I would have won otherwise. At this point in the series, every reader should be relatively familiar with what our tutor effects (mainly Infernal Tutor and Burning Wish) are trying to accomplish in our primary game plan. To recap, you want to use them in conjunction with your mana-producing spells in order to find and cast your win conditions, including Ad Nauseam. Most of the time, you only need one Burning Wish or Infernal Tutor to enact that plan though. The extra tutor effects will be blank cards or, in even worse cases, actively set you back as you are unable to become Hellbent for Infernal Tutor.

Infernal Tutor

The times where having extra tutor effects to combo with is beneficial is against decks with counterspells when you find yourself light on discard spells. You can hopefully use your extra tutors to induce your opponent to use their counterspells, leaving the coast clear for your final tutor to win the game. In a lot of situations though, this simply isn’t practical. With Infernal Tutor, it usually doesn’t work that well because Infernal Tutor can’t find anything too threatening as long as you have other cards in your hand. Burning Wish has a lot of utility, but they can simply let the Burning Wish resolve and then plan to counter what you find with it if it matters. The goal of this article is to explain how, against counterspells or otherwise, you can use your extra copies of Burning Wish and Infernal Tutor to make the greatest impact on the game, or even provide your hand that is struggling to win the game the last push it needs.

We’ll start by looking at Infernal Tutor, since its alternative uses are fairly straightforward. The three things that you will most commonly want to find with your extra Infernal Tutors are more discard spells, more draw spells, or more mana-producing effects. The situations that would warrant getting each of these are relatively unique, so they often do not overlap too often.

The most common type of card to look for with Infernal Tutor is more mana-producing effects. So many times, I’ve found myself with a hand that has almost everything I need, but instead of having enough ways to produce mana, I’m left with a single Dark Ritual and a bunch of extra Infernal Tutors that aren’t going anywhere. Aggressively using Infernal Tutors to find more mana-producing spells opens up a lot of doors, as your Burning Wishes become more threatening thanks to the fact that Empty the Warrens is now more powerful, and you also allow yourself to potentially push through counterspells more easily with something like Past in Flames, which requires a lot of Dark Rituals or Rite of Flames to be impactful. Getting extra Lion’s Eye Diamonds can also be good if you are worried about losing a good amount of your hand next turn to something like Hymn to Tourach, as you can find another one and then play both of them to protect them, turning any tutor that you draw later into a likely win.

Finding discard spells is particularly useful if you have good reason to believe that your opponent has many counterspells in their hand, and that is the only thing preventing you from winning. In some games against decks like Miracles, I’ll actually wait on using at least one of my discard spells if I have a tutor in my hand, because it means that any extra Infernal Tutors I draw can be turned into discard spells. Of course, I think this line is only worth it if you very strongly believe your opponent has more than one counterspell. If you think there is a reasonable chance that your opponent only has one counterspell and you are ready to win the game, it is likely better to use the discard spell instead of holding it for the exact scenario where your opponent has two counterspells and you were going to draw an Infernal Tutor in the next few cards. There is some free upside though, especially if you aren’t ready to win the game, because as we discussed in the article about discard spells, you often want to wait on some number of them anyway to minimize the impact of Brainstorm and to have more complete knowledge.

Rite Of Flame

Lastly, finding draw spells is fairly rare, but is super useful in games where you need a few different cards to put together a win or just in general expect the game to go very long where getting extra sculpting of your draws can be useful. Further, if you are incredibly clotted with tutors, getting an extra Brainstorm can help you more quickly turn your hand into something that looks fairly reasonable. Understanding when to get Ponder versus Brainstorm when you have both isn’t particularly important because if you have both, there is a good chance you are better off just using them, and then finding something specific with the Infernal Tutor (like a mana-producer or a discard spell) once you have sculpted your hand a bit better.

Moving on to Burning Wish, this is a bit of a difficult card to discuss because you often have so many different options and each of them is incredibly context dependent, but I will do my best to introduce the important possibilities.

The first thing I always like to consider with my extra copies of Burning Wish is whether or not I have any cards I’ve sideboarded out that could be useful. While I can count the number of times I’ve done it on one hand, the ability to get a Ponder that you’ve sideboarded out in a game where you really need to find a Lion’s Eye Diamond has won me multiple games that I would have lost otherwise. Further, in certain matchups I would often sideboard out a Duress specifically to find with Burning Wish because I knew that the games would go long and my Burning Wishes would have serious diminishing returns. Being able to turn an extra Burning Wish into a discard spell against control decks means that in longer games you are more likely to have an impactful draw-step given the extra utility of your cards. This has been so useful that I’ve often considered playing an extra discard spell in the sideboard in certain metagames just so I can use this trick in game one and also have access to it post-board without cutting down on discard in the main deck. Sometimes you event sideboard out some Rite of Flames, and Burning Wish can become a ritual effect!

Against an opponent who you think is likely to put important creatures like Gaddock Teeg into play before you can combo off, you can preemptively find a Grapeshot to save yourself a lot of mana for after that creature comes down. This, along with the ability to find Tendrils of Agony, can also punish opponents who aggressively take a lot of damage such as Death’s Shadow. You then put these players in spots where they feel compelled to counter every Burning Wish, which allows you bait counterspells with them even when you don’t have the ability to take advantage of the Grapeshot or Tendrils of Agony they are scared of.

In a mana-heavy hand, you can find an Empty the Warrens in order to give your combo turns a backup plan. This could even induce your opponent to counter some of your rituals given that they don’t want to let you cast Empty the Warrens, which is exactly what you want in your mana-heavy hand.

Infernal Tutor
Dark Petition
Past In Flames

In matchups where you sideboard out an Infernal Tutor, you can use Burning Wish to find an Infernal Tutor to increase its utility, which is especially useful in longer games, or in games where you feel like you need to win with Ad Nauseam but you only have Burning Wishes. This can also be done synthetically thanks to Dark Petition, though that has a little less utility in shorter games given that it’s much harder to just cast a Dark Petition for value without using some number of your rituals in the process.

Finally, the major card that you will often find with extra copies of Burning Wish is Past in Flames, especially in your ritual heavy hands or in games that are likely to go really long where counterspells are what you have to fight through. Past in Flames fights very well through counterspells, particularly when you’ve made a good number of land drops, because they effectively will need to have two or three counterspells to successfully stop you from winnings over the course of a few turns. It’s also great against discard heavy decks too as you can recast any spell they take, and taking Past in Flames doesn’t really accomplish much thanks to flashback. That said, winning with Past in Flames will often require a healthy number of rituals and so this is where your extra Infernal Tutors can also help pull some weight. The big thing to remember for this line is that Burning Wish exiles itself, which means that when it resolves it has some inherent lack of synergy with Past in Flames. This line will be most useful when you have a Burning Wish in your graveyard from a discard spell or counterspell, or when you have an Infernal Tutor. It’s great that you can cast the Infernal Tutor as a utility spell and still have access to it with the Past in Flames later.

There are, of course, many other great things that both Burning Wish and Infernal Tutor can do that I was not able to cover here. That said, I do believe that these are the most common situations you will find yourself in. While there isn’t any one of these that happens incredibly often, put together they actually represent a meaningful percentage of your games, and can represent the difference between winning and losing those games. If you have any other awesome tutor utilities that I didn’t touch on, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read this article, and if you have any great ideas for the next one, don’t hesitate to reach out!