The ABC’s of TES: Removal

Interacting with The EPIC Storm does not always happen directly on the stack. Often opponents will bring lock pieces and other hateful permanents to the table in an attempt to slow TES down or prevent it from winning at all. These cards present the Storm player with two main options: remove the lock piece or try to win through it.

Common Lock Pieces

There used to be a time in Legacy where [[Chalice of the Void]] was the most important lock piece to deal with. Unfortunately, as the metagame has evolved, a variety of lock pieces commonly see play in the format.

Hate Bears Artifacts Enchantments Large Creatures
[[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] [[Chalice of the Void]] [[Deafening Silence]] [[Chancellor of the Annex]]
[[Collector Ouphe]] [[Trinisphere]] [[Blood Moon]] [[Archon of Valor’s Reach]]
[[Archon of Emeria]] [[Sphere of Resistance]] [[Leyline of the Void]] [[Griselbrand]]
[[Gaddock Teeg]] [[Null Rod]] [[Counterbalance]]
[[Spirit of the Labyrinth]] [[Pithing Needle]] [[Leyline of Sanctity]]

Some effects shut off one avenue and force one to pick a different avenue. For example, [[Spirit of the Labyrinth]] prevents [[Echo of Eons]] and [[Peer into the Abyss]] from winning the game. While removing the [[Spirit of the Labyrinth]] and then winning the game with one of those engines is possible, it is often more efficient and faster to use a different engine to win the game. Getting to ignore one of the opponent’s cards is like a zero for one: the Storm player gets to answer one of the opponent’s cards without investing one of their own. Other lock pieces must be removed before winning the game. It is pretty hard to cast a lethal [[Tendrils of Agony]] for ten through a [[Deafening Silence]]. This is why The EPIC Storm plays a lot of removal in the sideboard. The average creature that just attacks and blocks does not matter and the removal is not for them. It is all for these “unbeatable” lock pieces.

Bounce Spells

[[Chain of Vapor|]]
[[Chalice of the Void|]]
[[Echoing Truth|]]

Historically, The EPIC Storm plays several bounce spells in the sideboard. Bounce spells are some of the best removal in the context of Storm because they tend to be under costed and generic. Bounce spells, in the wider world of Magic, are card disadvantage and therefore get costed lower than hard removal. For TES, one only needs one turn free from the lock pieces to win the game. A well placed bounce spell can do that, especially if the lock piece is not hindering development.

[[Chain of Vapor]] — The best bounce spell ever printed. It is the cheapest and most flexible option in the game. The “Drawback” of being able to copy the spell is actually an upside often. One can cast [[Chain of Vapor]] targeting their own permanents to generate mana and/or Storm count.

[[Echoing Truth]] — The best option to bounce a [[Chalice of the Void]]. In a previous era, where [[Chalice of the Void]] was everywhere and most commonly played on one, having a one mana answer to it was actually a downside. Picking a more expensive and still just as flexible option was the choice at the time. [[Echoing Truth]] also had the upside of bouncing all of the copies of [[Chalice of the Void]] if the opponent ever put multiple into play.

[[Hurkyl’s Recall]] — While this is one of the best options for answering all of the artifacts, the variety in the types of permanents that must be answered going forward likely keeps this card out of the deck for a long time. There are only so many sideboard slots for answers to exist in.

Hard Removal Spells

[[Prismatic Ending|]]
[[Slaughter Pact|]]

Killing things permanently is sometimes the best option! Many of the most commonly played lock pieces hinder development so removing it and then taking a turn or two before winning the game can happen. Removing a [[Trinisphere]] to allow for a few cantrips can be crucial.

[[Swords to Plowshares]]/[[Lightning Bolt]]/[[Fatal Push]] — These are the stock best removal in Legacy. One of the problems with these cards, however, is they are not flexible enough to answer all of the different types of permanents TES needs to answer.

[[Crash]] — Though narrow, [[Crash]] is free. Being zero mana is an incredible upside to cleanly answer a lock piece and then win the game. Given that it is an instant, one cannot find it with [[Burning Wish]]. Instead, a copy must be boarded in. Most often only one copy is played to keep the average mana value down for [[Ad Nauseam]]. Because [[Crash]] is zero mana, it is much easier to find with [[Wishclaw Talisman]] on the combo turn.

[[Slaughter Pact]] — Similar to [[Crash]], the greatest strength of [[Slaughter Pact]] is that it costs zero mana. It has a similar play pattern to [[Crash]] where having one in the deck to find with [[Wishclaw Talisman]] is likely the best use.

[[Abrupt Decay]] — This card seems to break many of the previous rules about what makes removal spells good. It costs a whole two mana, which is even worse under taxing effects. The text “Can’t be countered” is the sole reason to play this card. Against blue deck with lock pieces like [[Counterbalance]], fighting over removing that permanent is not the goal. It is better to guaranteed remove the permanent and then be able to have the full force of all of one’s protection for the combo. [[Abrupt Decay]] is one of the main reasons why The EPIC Storm was green for the longest time.

[[Prismatic Ending]] — Perhaps the greatest removal spell ever printed. Despite Sorcery speed normally being a downside, [[Burning Wish]] causes it to be an upside, allowing for many removal spells to be gotten even in game one! It scales well to remove all of the permanents that matter to TES, except for some of the largest creatures. It even works incredibly well against taxing effects, such as [[Sphere of Resistance]]. Converge checks all of the colors spent on all of the costs of the spell, including additional ones. To remove a [[Sphere of Resistance]], one may cast [[Prismatic Ending]] for X=0 and still have the required two colors to remove the permanent. Against [[Chalice of the Void]], the variable mana cost allows [[Prismatic Ending]] to remove it on any value.

Mass Removal Spells

[[Reverent Silence|]]

While spot removal is generally cheaper, sometimes the opponent gets out further ahead with multiple lock pieces and spending multiple cards to remove them all is much slower than having access to a mass removal spell.

[[Massacre]] — The former best answer to Death & Taxes. One of the main problems with [[Massacre]] is that it only answers creatures and is a large investment to just answer a [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] while also not answering [[Deafening Silence]]. The other premier mono white deck, Initiative Stompy, does not even play many [[Plains]] to trigger the free condition of [[Massacre]]. Even if they do, many of their best creatures do not even die to -2/-2.

[[Reverent Silence]] — While answering Enchantments is neat, there are generally not enough of them being played for [[Reverent Silence]] to consistently be worth a sideboard slot.

[[Pulverize]] — Artifacts tend to be the most common type of lock piece. Keeping an Artifact wrath in the sideboard that can cost zero mana is a good use of that slot. The one downside to [[Pulverize]] is that it does come at a deck building cost of one wanting about three copies of [[Mountain]] in the deck. This also is not a big issue if the best Stompy deck happens to also be a [[Blood Moon]] deck.

[[By Force]]/[[Meltdown]] — If one likes to spend mana to answer a couple of artifacts these are perfect! In the rare case that these are better than [[Pulverize]], it tends to be because one must pass the turn after casting it.

Unlocking the Storm

If one has been following us on Twitter, one may have noticed that the newest versions of The EPIC Storm have cut Green for White and the removal spell option of [[Prismatic Ending]] played a role in that! If you want to learn more about that decision, feel free to reach out to me in the Patreon or Storm Discord. I can also be found on Twitter.