Cantrips, cards that provide some amount of card selection, are the backbone of almost every blue deck in Legacy. The EPIC Storm is no different. [[Brainstorm]] and [[Ponder]] are two important cards to learn how to play in an aggressive combo oriented style.
Why Play Cantrips
Cantrips are slow cards. They cost a mana to filter through other cards and the fastest decks in the format, like Oops All Spells, do not play them and just rely on mulligans. What cantrips do provide is consistency and the ability to select the right card in the right situation. Based on the Turbo Xerox Theory, cantrips can be thought of a part of the mana base. Early in the game, they can search for mana sources while prioritizing spells, and in late in the game, they can search for spells and not lands to prevent flooding. For The EPIC Storm, maintaining a balance of fast mana, action spells, and protection is what the deck wants out of its cantrips.
[[Ponder]] is the easier cantrip to play with. There are fewer decisions to make with it and it can be more specific. [[Ponder]] is the only cantrip in Legacy that can look at a total of four cards, three initially and then potentially a fourth after the shuffle. This makes it the best at finding a single card from a specific set. [[Ponder]] with a fetch land can also act as extra selection to only choose one or two of the [[Ponder]] cards. The downside is that if one wants multiple cards from the [[Ponder]] then holding the fetch land may prevent the further casting of spells.
Because [[Ponder]] is the best at finding a specific card, holding it for a few turns can make sense to better inform what the [[Ponder]] wants to find. Balancing that with the tempo concerns of casting it on turn one can be an interesting problem that is context driven in terms of the match up and how much pressure the opponent is presenting.
There are many articles across the internet about how to cast [[Brainstorm]] properly. The synergy between [[Brainstorm]] and fetch lands to shuffle away bad cards is the basis of the [[Legacy]] format. Instead of some broader [[Brainstorm]] heuristics, this article will instead present some TES specific scenarios.
One of the hardest decisions to make with [[Brainstorm]] tends to be around what to put back. The first step in figuring that out should be deciding if the current turn is the combo turn. If the game is not going to last any more turns, putting back extra lands becomes much easier because they are blanks. If the combo turn is not this turn,, however, extra lands may have a higher value over something like a [[Lotus Petal]] because they can tap for more than one mana over multiple turns. The Storm count that the [[Lotus Petal]] provides tends not to matter unless the goal is to end at a [[Galvanic Relay]] or [[Empty the Warrens]]. Consistent mana is much more powerful than temporary mana.
Sometimes, the cards that get put back with [[Brainstorm]] are the best cards. For example, putting back [[Ad Nauseam]] to draw into with another cantrip and a [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] or two can be powerful. Putting cards back into the deck to redraw with cantrips or tutor for with [[Wishclaw Talisman]] to use mana from [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] on happens more often than one would think.
Pondering and Practicing
Cantrips are the hardest part of Legacy and are often the difference between winning and losing. Paying attention to how one cantrips can often speed up the deck by a turn. Practicing getting to the point where one can efficiently produce a fast combo is important for figuring out if it is correct to go off as fast as possible or wait for a better opening.
You can find me in the Storm Discord, The EPIC Storm Patreon, and on Twitter where I will answer all sorts of questions.