TES Infernal Tutoring # 3

We’re back again with a new edition of Infernal Tutoring! After our last session on macro management and overall strategies, this week focuses in the opposite direction: small, tactical plays to grind out an edge and open the breach for The EPIC Storm to rage.

For this week, the latest version of The EPIC Storm was used. It is, of course, available on the home page.



Situation #1 – UR Delver

We begin our journey against an unknown deck. I lose the dice roll and keep a hand of Brainstorm, Polluted Delta, Polluted Delta, Rite of Flame, Gitaxian Probe, Bloodstained Mire and Ponder. Three lands are a lot, but with a Brainstorm, it will be possible to shuffle away at least one if needed. In front of us, the opponent lays down a Polluted Delta and pass.

I get an additional Gitaxian Probe as my draw. Because I don’t know what I’m against and fear a Wasteland, I choose to not activate a fetchland and play a cantrip on the first turn. I question if I should at least play a Gitaxian Probe: it could reveal an opportunity to freely cast, for instance, the Ponder on this first turn, but at the same time, it would give a hint on what we’re playing and miss some synergy with the Brainstorm. I play a Polluted Delta and choose to pass, keeping both Gitaxian Probe for future uses.

I am met by a Wasteland and go. My second draw completes a pair of Brainstorm. Since the blind Ponder isn’t safe anymore due to the Wasteland (without a basic Island to fetch, we give away a land), I choose to cast a Gitaxian Probe to know what exactly is happening. As our opponent reveals a threatening hand (Young Pyromancer, Daze, Lightning Bolt, Stifle, Preordain and Preordain), I draw a second mana accelerator: Dark Ritual, leaving the battlefield as this:

UR Delver 01EDITOR’S NOTE: You may click on the images to enlarge for better viewing.

Facing Daze, Wasteland and Stifle, how should the cantrip sequence be played?

I believe it’s a must to at least try something on this turn, because in the event the opponent draws a land and play Young Pyromancer next turn from the Wasteland a and colored mana, the Stifle and Daze will not only counter most of our plays, but also provide Elementals for even more pressure. I would start with activating Polluted Delta, most likely meeting Stifle, then drop Bloodstained Mire, search for Underground Sea and play Ponder, hoping it meets Daze, and if not, looking for Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox or an extra land. While the Underground Sea will most likely get destroyed next turn, the fetchland in our hand allows an almost guaranteed Brainstorm on the third turn. With it, the Gitaxian Probe could be replaced with a better card and hopefully shuffled away.

Our opponent isn’t actually doing anything other than drawing for turn. There isn’t a reason to waste a significant number of resources yet when our opponent is some time from establishing a real clock and still being able to effectively use their tempo spells like Stifle, Daze, and Wasteland. Just keep making land drops and eventually Daze and Wasteland will become very ineffective. If he continues to hit lands, he isn’t drawing any more threats or counter spells. Let us develop our hand through the draw step a little bit before making any real moves.

I see no reason to do anything other than playing more lands and shipping the turn(s) as your opponent has no clock going. Exposing Duals to Wasteland and throwing Ponder into Daze, respite us being able to play around both, is a losing move. Once you have the three lands in play, you can easily play around Daze and maybe your opponent taps the Wasteland to cast Young Pyromancer, so you can use your Duals in your opponents turn and yours to follow. “Tempo” cards like Daze & Wasteland are really ineffective once the opponent develops his mana base and if these cards are not backing up a clock. I am sure, you could even trick your opponent later into using Daze & Stifle, boosting your own storm count for a lethal spell chain.

I don’t know why you wouldn’t have lead with Gitaxian Probe into Ponder on turn one. You have two fetchlands, there’s no reason to be afraid of Wasteland. Especially when you’re digging four cards that turn, you’ll see another land or even better – the tools to kill the opponent.

For the specific scenario asked, I would play a land and pass. The opponent isn’t pressuring the collective “us” as a storm player, no need to play into their tricks. Their only threat is two mana, which means we can build a board presence.

Situation #2 – Reanimator

The second match begins again with an unknown deck. Losing the dice roll, I keep a vulnerable yet versatile hand of Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Infernal Tutor, Infernal Tutor, Cabal Therapy, Lion’s Eye Diamond and Bloodstained Mire. My opponent is less lucky than me and has to mulligan to 6.

The first card played is a Careful Study out of an Underground Sea: we’re facing Reanimator. Tidesprout Tyrant and Misty Rainforest go to graveyard, and I draw a Chrome Mox for the turn. A few options are available to us: rush for an Ad Nauseam or Empty the Warrens despite the possibility of Daze and Force of Will, play Cabal Therapy and blindly name a Reanimate effect or a counterspell, or use Infernal Tutor, revealing a card in our hand, to sculpt an even safer win for the following turn(s). What is the best play in this situation?

Reanimator 01

Given the mulligan, I choose to play the probability and would try Ad Nauseam. Opening with the fetchland, I would reach an Underground Sea that I keep untapped while I play the Chrome Mox, in case of a Daze. I would imprint a copy of Infernal Tutor, play both Lotus Petal, then Lion’s Eye Diamond (we could always sacrifice a Lotus Petal for the same threat), then cast the last Infernal Tutor, sacrificing the Lion’s Eye Diamond (discarding Cabal Therapy), and tutor / cast Ad Nauseam with no mana floating. An other option would have been to play the Cabal Therapy before the artifacts, blindly naming something, then tutor for Empty the Warrens instead of Ad Nauseam, and flashback the Cabal Therapy using a goblin to get rid of a threat. However, I was told to never go Empty the Warrens against a Reanimator deck, thus I’m trying to apply what I was taught.

We want to try to get a read on our opponent’s hand here. We can find an Underground Sea and cast Cabal Therapy. The assumption is that if they have a counter spell, they will want to protect their combo. If the Cabal Therapy is countered by Daze or Force of Will, we make 16 goblins. Since they’d have no land in play or only 2 cards in hand, the only realistic way to put a Griselbrand in play without being really lucky is with Reanimate, at which point we can actually beat that. So we are only really dead to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite of which they only play 1. If we want to be safe we can Cabal Therapy Reanimate to try and keep them off Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. If it isn’t countered, we name Force of Will, make 14 goblins, and flash it back naming whatever relevant spell is in their hand that allows them to beat the Goblins. Normally, Goblins is not all that safe against Reanimate, but I think this is one of the few situations where it can be given how few cards and resources our opponent has access to.

You have the option to gamble on Ad Nauseam here turn 1 against Daze & Force of Will (given the 4 cards in your opponents hand are not too threatening in regards to the odds of actually having those cards), but I would put into consideration, that you already burn three artifact based initial mana sources before casting Ad Nauseam and have to find 1-2 more out of 4 left in the deck.

Personally, I would start with a mind-trick, casting Cabal Therapy off a fetched Underground Sea, them thinking they have to protect their combo by casting Daze, if they hold it in hand. If they don’t counter the Cabal Therapy, I would assume, they don’t have Daze and name Force of Will. In case the discard spell is countered, you can opt to pass the turn (aiming for Ad Nauseam) or grab Empty the Warrens, but if neither Daze or Force of Will hits the bin in the process and you see there is no resistance, you can grab Empty the Warrens and flashback Cabal Therapy to slow them down. You can afford to go the goblin route here, as Tidesprout Tyrant is not really able to handle 14+ goblins even if they top deck a reanimation spell beyond the one you probably discarded with the flashback.

I wouldn’t go for Goblins, considering they can still put Griselbrand or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite into play. Leaving two options in my eyes, play your land and cast Cabal Therapy (Naming: Force of Will) or go all in. Playing your own discard spell openings yourself up to their discard, but you’ll be able to Ad Nauseam safely on the second turn. Even if they Reanimate and bounce your land, it’s not a big deal. You could in theory make Goblins and then Cabal Therapy again but it seems unnecessarily fragile. I don’t like going all in due to Daze or Force of Will stopping you. I would probably just lay a land, Lotus Petal, and then Cabal Therapy (Lion’s Eye Diamond afterwards).

Situation #3: Infect

With the typical luck we have, the third match starts with a lost dice roll against an unknown opponent. The chosen seven are Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Brainstorm, Ponder, Polluted Delta and Lion’s Eye Diamond.

Two different moments define this match on our side, so let’s see how it played out. Opening with Gitaxian Probe, my opponent then searches for a Tropical Island to play a Noble Hierarch. Most likely, this is an Infect deck.

I draw a Dark Ritual. Infect usually plays Force of Will, Daze, and sometimes Spell Pierce, but no Wasteland. I choose to lay my Polluted Delta to get an Underground Sea and play Ponder over Brainstorm, as I think it sees more cards. Ponder resolves but reveals an awful trio, and I shuffle only to find Infernal Tutor.

Infect 01

This is our first opportunity. In a vacuum, it would be possible to play Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox (imprint: Brainstorm), Lion’s Eye Diamond, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor (sacrificing Lion’s Eye Diamond), and cast Ad Nauseam. On the other hand, since the opponent has no threats on the board and most likely can counter an important spell, waiting an extra turn isn’t an impossible choice.

My reasoning is the following: if I lead with a Chrome Mox that does not meet resistance, I would choose to imprint Brainstorm. I could then play a Lotus Petal and pay the required mana to nullify Daze if needed, but in the case of a Force of Will, I’ve lost the possibility to play a discard spell next turn, to play a cantrip depending on the need, and two storm counters. Nonetheless, one could argue that a Force of Will played this turn would cripple the opponent more than my chances to win. Unsure of the good decision to make, I choose to let the opportunity go and wait for a better one.

I watch my opponent tap the Noble Hierarch to cast a Brainstorm in the second turn. As a new land is found, a Blighted Agent enters the battlefield, leaving no lands untapped. Luckily, I draw a Swamp on my turn. I really wish I could see what’s against me, and hoping to find a Duress, Gitaxian Probe or Cabal Therapy, I play Brainstorm in my main phase. The second crucial point appears as I draw Ad Nauseam, Bloodstained Mire and Ponder.

Infect 02

With any land, the previous opportunity involving Infernal Tutor is still available, as long as Ad Nauseam is put back on top. However, it is now also possible to chain the pair of Dark Ritual and play Ad Nauseam. My opponent is also down a card compared to last turn, but the cards were filtered as a Brainstorm was casted. Moreover, it seems imperative to combo now, as a good Infect deck could win with only the Blighted Agent and a few pump spells.

What cards should be put back on top, and how should the combo be played to be as efficient as possible?

Honestly, I believe the more resources are spared, the best are the chances to win. I would put back Chrome Mox and a Bloodstained Mire on top of the library, drop the Swamp, cast Lotus Petal (casting it after the Swamp to avoid Daze), cast a Dark Ritual from the Swamp (with Lotus Petal on the battlefield, again, for a Daze), play Infernal Tutor showing Dark Ritual to grab the third copy, play both Dark Ritual, play Lion’s Eye Diamond, and cast Ad Nauseam (sacrificing Lion’s Eye Diamond for red mana, discarding Ponder). Using the Infernal Tutor means I’m losing the guaranteed initial mana source that I did put back on top (Chrome Mox), but with three mana floating already, I believe the extra storm counters are worth it. Winning shouldn’t be a problem from there, even if it requires Past in Flames to cast the three Dark Ritual again.

We can make it so that we aren’t just dead to a Force of Will unless our opponent has it and 8 points worth of pump spells. We put back Chrome Mox first, then the fetchland on top of it. Play the Swamp, then the Lotus Petal, then both Dark Rituals, then the Lion’s Eye Diamond, then Ad Nauseam. We can hold the Lion’s Eye Diamond, but I think playing around two Daze is worth the lost Storm if we need to combo again next turn. If Ad Nauseam meets a Force of Will and we don’t die in the next turn or two, we’ll draw a fetchland and have 3 lands, Infernal Tutor, and a Ponder, with a Lotus Petal and Lion’s Eye Diamond in play, so we can fetch (since we don’t want Chrome Mox), and cast Ponder, trying to find some more mana to allow us to combo fairly easily with Past in Flames on the next turn.

To solve the Brainstorm first: I’d opt to put back the Chrome Mox first and the Fetch land on top of it and follow up with the play line of dropping the Swamp, the Lotus Petal, cast double Ritual off the Swamp to get around Daze, leaving only Force of Will as a countermeasure for a 3-for-2 trade which you could be able to recover from if all goes wrong. You even would have Ponder, Infernal Tutor and Lion’s Eye Diamond already in hand, which is far from a bad position to rebuild a hand and access Past in Flames for another shot to combo off.

I would’ve gone for it on turn one. I think you put Chrome Mox and Bloodstained Mire on top, Swamp, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond and Ad Nauseam. I wouldn’t break the Lion’s Eye Diamond. Notice how you’re in a similar spot as turn one, except you gave the opponent an extra turn to find Force of Will.

As always, feel free to send your suggestions for different match-ups and scenarios!