TES Infernal Tutoring # 5

Without a doubt, practice makes perfect. While I still consider myself a below average player, I can now proudly say that I am no longer a free win on Cockatrice! Being cannon fodder was fun for a while, but I’m glad we could move on and be a bit more technical. The Infernal Tutors’ teachings are slowly building a better player, and I hope they’re having the same effect on you!

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



Situation #1 – Nahiri Miracles

This scenario takes place in game two against a Nahiri, the Harbringer Miracles brew. The new planeswalker didn’t do much in the first game and was overwhelmed by Goblins, thus we begin the game with a lead.

The sideboard choices were the as the website suggests against a Miracles opponent:

+4 Abrupt Decay, +2 Thoughtseize, +1 Bayou, -3 Chrome Mox, -2 Ponder, -1 Lotus Petal, -1 Swamp

I keep my initial seven cards: Abrupt Decay, Cabal Therapy, Thoughtseize, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Burning Wish and Bloodstained Mire.

I am met with a classic, Volcanic Island into Sensei’s Divining Top on my opponent’s first turn. Drawing a Polluted Delta, I lead with Bloodstained Mire, searching for Underground Sea and play Thoughtseize to estimate the time I have ahead of me.

It reveals Counterspell, Counterspell, Counterbalance, Tundra and Nahiri, the Harbringer.

Despite the Cabal Therapy I have, which could take out the pair of Counterspell on its own, I choose to discard one with the Thoughtseize since I have Abrupt Decay in hand. In retrospective, I am unsure about this decision. As expected, my opponent plays Counterbalance on their second turn. I draw a second Lion’s Eye Diamond and pass, holding on the Abrupt Decay to play it after my opponent’s third turn. They don’t draw a land and are left with what they have, so I end up destroying the Counterbalance after getting a Bayou with Polluted Delta. My third draw is a third copy of Lion’s Eye Diamond.

Expecting an easy Cabal Therapy to take out the second Counterspell, and then leading with Lotus Petal, the triplet of Lion’s Eye Diamond to cast Dark Petition via Burning Wish, I start my third turn with a smile. Sure, the Cabal Therapy resolves, however, it also shows my opponent’s last draws: Force of Will and Vendilion Clique. Without a second discard effect, this game seems unwinnable, especially as the Sensei’s Divining Top filters all the cards passing by. It allows a third land to enter my opponent’s battlefield after a Ponder. I draw a Bloodstained Mire too, so we have both three lands in play by my fourth turn.

My opponent chooses to hold on their card and allow me to play my fifth turn, drawing a Brainstorm. I cast it from my Underground Sea and see no discard spells, but surely enough cards to open a lot of options: Rite of Flame, Gitaxian Probe and Empty the Warrens.

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

What two cards to you put on top of your library to win in the shortest term?

I could be wrong, but I don’t see a bad option as win condition: natural Empty the Warrens, Burning Wish into Empty the Warrens, Dark Petition, natural Tendrils of Agony, everything seems possible but Past in Flames, due to lack of ritual effects. Mostly, the options will be there if I can manage the Force of Will and the Vendilion Clique: with Sensei’s Divining Top in play, we can assume the unknown card is blue.

However, I don’t believe a natural Empty the Warrens is expected. Most likely, this is how we will win, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try some Gitaxian Probe shenanigan. The first card I put on top the third copy of Lion’s Eye Diamond: two is more than enough mana for what we need. The second top card in Burning Wish. That way, we protect it from the Vendilion Clique, will draw it after Gitaxian Probe, or will draw it after Vendilion Clique itself. I would then open with Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Rite of Flame, Gitaxian Probe and Empty the Warrens, for a minimum of 14 Goblins with Burning Wish and Lion’s Eye Diamond as backups.

At the very worst, we would meet Vendilion Clique in the beginning of the sequence, putting Empty the Warrens bottom and drawing Burning Wish, and have the Burning Wish Counterspelled by the Force of Will. For this reason, I would hold on it if this scenario happened. At the very best, the opponent would use Force of Will on a secondary spell (most likely a mana artifact, or ritual), and then use Vendilion Clique in response to Gitaxian Probe, letting us draw Burning Wish (from Vendilion Clique) and the third Lion’s Eye Diamond (from Gitaxian Probe), allowing a natural Tendrils of Agony for 22!

I believe our best bet is to just assume the hidden card (or top card that our opponent can draw with Sensei’s Divining Top) is blue and maneuver best around that. There is a chance we need to win this turn because of Sensei’s Divining Top, but that seems less likely then him just having access to another blue card. Put back Burning Wish, then Lion’s Eye Diamond. Cast Rite of Flame, then if it resolves, Lotus Petal, all of the Lion’s Eye Diamonds, and an Empty the Warrens. If Rite of Flame doesn’t resolve because of a Force of Will, then just pass the turn. Untap, Gitaxian Probe into Burning Wish, and cast it sacrificing all of the Lion’s Eye Diamonds. If, in the middle of the process, he Vendilion Cliques our Empty the Warrens, we Gitaxian Probe into Burning Wish. If he has a blue card in hand, pass the turn and do your best to find an opening later.

Personally, I would put back Lion’s Eye Diamond and Burning Wish on top and proceed playing out your mana provoking the Vendilion Clique to bottom the Empty the Warrens and draw into Burning Wish for Dark Petition into Ad Nauseam for the win OR to render his Force of Will useless, if he/she holds on the Vendilion Clique and let you cast your mana without resistance and you being able to probe into Burning Wish and drop 14 goblins. If he/she can sweep the goblins, you still can follow up with the Burning Wish next turn. I don’t see the top of the opponents library as really dangerous as your opponent had to fetch to cast the Clique, so its unlikely that your opponent can Clique & Force the same turn, denying you both red sorceries. I wouldn’t feel bad in that case given you faced two Counterspells, Counterbalance, Sensei’s Divining Top, Vendilion Clique and Force of Will.

The Bloodstained Mire actually makes this a little obnoxious, which doesn’t usually happen in the middle of resolving a Brainstorm! I would put a Lion’s Eye Diamond on the bottom and Empty the Warrens on top. From there, I would play out my Lotus Petal and then use it to cast Rite of Flame. After that, I would play both copies of Lion’s Eye Diamond – your opponent is likely to respond to the second copy of Lion’s Eye Diamond with Vendilion Clique here. Which is fine, it’s when a storm pilot would typically be most vulnerable – with only two cards in hand.

By putting our Empty the Warrens on top of the library, we’ve protected our win condition from the only card that can stop it – Vendilion Clique. They’re likely to take Burning Wish at this point. Shuffle away the third Lion’s Eye Diamond using Bloodstained Mire for Volcanic Island. Cast Gitaxian Probe (We didn’t need the free storm in my opinion, the count is high enough – I’d rather have another action or disruption piece.) and then cast Empty the Warrens.

This puts the Miracles player where they’re forced to find the answer to Goblin tokens, but also burn a Force of Will on a storm copy. Seems like a good situation to be in with two Lion’s Eye Diamond on the table.

Situation #2 – Braids Stax

The second scenario is a nightmare that every Storm player probably faced at least once: a failed turn one Ad Nauseam against a Chalice of the Void deck. This time, the prison archetype is represented by the mono black Braids Stax deck. We are game one, on the play, and know what we are against.

The initial hand goes as follow: Infernal Tutor, Infernal Tutor, Chrome Mox, Volcanic Island, Swamp, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Dark Ritual.

Opening with Swamp (yes, Volcanic would have been better), Chrome Mox (imprint: Infernal Tutor), Lion’s Eye Diamond, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, sacrifice Lion’s Eye Diamond for Ad Nauseam – we reveal the following:

Braid Smokestack 01

How to you finish this mess? What motivates your decision?

Available options include, but are not limited to:

I can’t see myself keeping with the Ad Nauseam. With 32 cards in the deck and still 5 converted mana cost 2 in the deck, the odds are against us – especially since only 3 Lotus Petal and 2 Chrome Mox are also available. It’s the same odds and a bad luck means we’re dead, thus I stop. Not only that, but even with an other initial mana source, we would still need something else, like a Rite of Flame, to play our Burning Wish!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is actually wrong, there’s a Dark Ritual. Another initial mana source would be enough.

Even worse, I feel forced to play Lotus Petal and play Brainstorm right away, since I can (read: Chalice of the Void isn’t on the battlefield yet). I feel like it’s a must to play everything you can before Chalice of the Void hits the table. However, I wouldn’t sacrifice the Lion’s Eye Diamond in response to it.

The probability of that move working is too low to be appealing to me, and I feel like keeping 7 cards, even against a Chalice of the Void at one counter, is better than sacrificing our resources for that low of a percentage. From the options shown, I would keep Bloodstained Mire, Underground Sea, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Ponder, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish and Brainstorm and adjust according to what Brainstorm find.

Stop the Ad Nauseam. Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Duress, and Cabal Therapy naming relevant things hoping to completely strip his hand of action. Keep Lion’s Eye Diamond, Polluted Delta, Burning Wish, Underground Sea, Brainstorm, Ponder, Brainstorm. Then we have access to red source as well as Underground Sea to help us find another Lion’s Eye Diamond which would allow us to win with a Past in Flames in a turn or two. We can also use a Brainstorm, Ponder, Lion’s Eye Diamond chain to Empty the Warrens in a turn or two and strip the remainder of his hand. We could in theory keep Dark Ritual to guarantee a win next turn, but I don’t want to lose a turn one Phyrexian Revoker, Thorn of Amethyst, or even Trinisphere off of a Mox Diamond.

You can’t afford to keep going, so you have to evaluate the odds for trying to proceed the turn with Brainstorm off a Lotus Petal, which are not good. I don’t see any other viable option than to drop your artifacts and pass the turn. If you really fear Chalice of the Void/Thorn of Amethyst/Trinisphere, you can opt to Duress with the Lotus Petal instead of directly shipping the turn.

I don’t think you can keep flipping. I would play Lotus Petal, then immediately use it to cast Dark Ritual, Duress and then the pair of Cabal Therapy. Finally, I would lay the Lion’s Eye Diamond on the table. I would keep one fetchland while discarding. This should buy you a few turns and in the mean time you can set up for an Empty the Warrens with double flashback Cabal Therapy or a possible Past in Flames kill.

Situation #3: BUG Delver

To lighten the following part a bit, I’ve cut this game to its crucial point: a Cabal Therapy decision to make. This is game one against what seems to be BUG Delver. We’ve used some cantrips to sculpt a decent amount of mana while waiting for a business card, and we just drew Burning Wish. Between Gitaxian Probe, Dark Confidant and Daze – only a single card remains hidden in our opponent’s hand. We can’t really drag the game any longer as Dark Confidant has been winning on its own for a few turns already, and was just joined by Deathrite Shaman (unable to activate).

While it is possible to Storm off this turn, I wonder how to do it optimally and if I should start at all?  If we should get rid of Spell Pierce or just play around it? For instance, it would be possible to play Cabal Therapy as an opening from Underground Sea, but then if it gets Spell Pierce, we don’t know about the hidden card. If we manage to pay for it by paying Cabal Therapy with Rite of Flame and Lotus Petal, we could be some mana short from a lethal hit, or lose to Force of Will. If we name Force of Will and see a Stifle instead, we lost our card momentum and most likely the game. Maybe should we play safe, pay for everything and go for an unsure win condition, or try it all in a win or lose gamble.

BUG Delver

How would you play this Cabal Therapy, and what would you name with it?

After a deeper analysis, I believe the best play in this situation would be to play Cabal Therapy from the Underground Sea naming Force of Will. If it gets countered by Spell Pierce, then play it normally as a gamble. If it isn’t countered and that Cabal Therapy reveals a Force of Will as the hidden card, pass the turn. If it resolves and hit Force of Will, I believe we get enough Storm counters to just go for lethal: after the first Cabal Therapy (storm 1), Lotus Petal (storm 2), Lotus Petal (storm 3), Rite of Flame from a Lotus Petal (storm 4, RR), Lion’s Eye Diamond (storm 5, RR), Lion’s Eye Diamond (storm 6, RR), Chrome Mox (storm 7, RR), Burning Wish (storm 8) and hold priority to sacrifice both Lion’s Eye Diamond (RRRBBB) for a total of 6 mana, we can pay the extra two for Spell Pierce (storm 9, RRBB), and cast Tendrils of Agony (storm 10) for 20 damage, while our opponent is at 18 already.

I don’t see the value in saving one mana from Spell Pierce (paying the Cabal Therapy to discard it, instead of paying the 2 mana) if it’s going to cost us the game would we meet Force of Will. Other options would be available, such as casting Lotus Petal first, Rite of Flame, to pay the Spell Pierce price on Cabal Therapy, but that would leave us with Empty the Warrens, and I’m unsure about this solution.

Cast Cabal Therapy. If it gets hit by Spell Pierce, try to combo with Burning Wish for Tendrils and hope that he doesn’t have the Force as his last unknown card. If it resolves, name Force of Will. Then play Lotus Petal x2, Lion’s Eye Diamond x2. If an Lion’s Eye Diamond or a Lotus Petal gets hit by Spell Pierce, let that resolve and play Rite of Flame, Chrome Mox on nothing, and Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony to kill him. If he lets all of the Lion’s Eye Diamonds resolve, still just Tendrils of Agony him for lethal as you can pay for Spell Pierce with the Lion’s Eye Diamond mana.

This is why I hate casting Gitaxian Probe before critical turns. I fear that the situation is already bad judging from all the opponent’s cantripping and it won’t get better with the Dark Confidants and the third Ponder for your opponent to bury you. I’d name Spell Pierce if Cabal Therapy resolves and try my luck with Burning Wish.

I would play Lotus Petal and then Cabal Therapy (to avoid Daze) naming Spell Pierce if it resolves. You don’t have enough mana to play around Spell Pierce and a theoretical Stifle. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t already have the Burning Wish on the turn you played the Gitaxian Probe as perfect information would’ve been nice here. Assuming the unknown card is a blank, you can play out the rest of your cards into a lethal Tendrils of Agony.