The EPIC Storm approaches the Magdalen coast
While winning a GP is the goal of most Storm players, some of us are trapped to a LGS, or even worse, around a kitchen table, unable to even dream about moving forward with their decks. However, we’re still addicted. These Tendrils of Agony must be spread out. With no local game store, but with plenty of friends living on an Island, 250km away from any other civilization, a kitchen table Legacy league emerged. Among the contenders of this casual endeavor, a single Storm player. With only a deck and an Internet connection, he competes to win the great honors by the end of a summer time. Needless to say, such a situation isn’t the typical Legacy scene you’ll see. Most of you are probably able to attend a Legacy night (or even any Magic-related event, to be honest) at least once in a while, make your mistakes, and learn from them. Some websites such as this one or other communities also provide resources to grow the asset of a good, large set Magic player, ready to compete in anonymous events representing a much discussed meta. When you have 6 regular players with close to a single deck each, things tend to change.
Almost as a duty, I chose to play The EPIC Storm for this small but ferocious competition. For about 12 weeks and 3 tournaments, we would play together, compile the results, in the purpose of finding the best Legacy player on the Island. That means others can adapt to me as I can adapt to them; one good session report and you become the target for the next week. As if this wasn’t enough, when you’re inexperienced with such a complex, decision making deck, every game becomes a struggle as you’re very limited in a) the way you can gather experience and b) the margin you have to make mistakes. This series of articles now exists to demonstrate my learning process of The EPIC Storm, please feel free to share with me your thoughts and advise.
Be warned, however, as some information I provide might be incorrect – this is typical! The point is to see the improvement as I learn, in the articles as well as in my reports. After every week, as I get help and corrections from you, I should be able to report the new successes and thoughts, developing my abilities and presenting my evolution as a Storm player. The discussions to follow will have direct results over the summer and are an interactive learning tool for every Storm player to come. What a challenge!
Introduction to an atypical metagame
6 casual regular players, an other one to join in a few weeks, and some others to come with their holidays. A list to explain everything:
- Pierre-Alexandre, the “white guy”, a regular, playing Death & Taxes.
- Alexandra, an other regular, playing Manaless Dredge (but who also has Burn & Elves)!
- Bruno, the “black” guy, currently ahead in the league. Plays The Gate, Loam Pox, or borrows Elves!
- Karel, a regular playing Affinity.
- Alexis, mostly playing BWg Deadguy Ale, but who also has UR Delver on the way.
- Jean-Christophe, busy with fishing season, playing Merfolk most of the time, but who also brews his own creation of Dark Maverick or other rare decks.
- And Guillaume, who’s only here for 3 weeks, playing Reanimator or who knows, Astral Slide.
That’s about it. Surprises happen, like an Oops, all Spells!, or some extra players for a night, but this is as steady as it gets. The first thing to jump to the eye is the lack of the most played decks in a regular metagame: no Miracles, no Omnishow or Show and Tell combos, and no Delver of Secrets decks.
A deck like The EPIC Storm shines most of the time, but also allow more room for our opposing decks to build sideboards. Because TES wins are always flashy and the deck is a bit harder to counter without playing blue, we’re seen as the threat at the kitchen table, even when other combo decks are being played, as Affinity and Manaless Dredge can both easily be answered with specific but common removal and hate. With TES sprawling its win conditions, it becomes easier for us to resist a wave of hate and come back stronger, when our opponent barely can find other answers – we’re at the advantage. Despite that, over last 6 weeks, I could make my mind of the different match-ups and spot those giving me the most troubles. And then, unable to find proper hate yet, I was left with a deck list, almost straight from Bryant Cook.
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 2 Duress
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Ad Nauseam
- 3 Abrupt Decay
- 3 Xantid Swarm
- 2 Chain of Vapor
- 1 Void Snare
- 1 Pyroclasm
- 1 Grapeshot
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Tendrils of Agony
- 1 Massacre
- 1 Past in Flames
This deck list is very close, exception made for the sideboard, to what Bryant Cook built pre-Grand Prix Lille. The opposition given by Miracles, among other decks, led to many changes in attempt to do better vs grindy matchups. Changes like the removal of two Chrome Mox and the addition of two Cabal Ritual, for instance, are still to be perfected, but at least make sense.
However, with no blue decks and a lot more hate bears, the need to go fast increases drastically. This is why the copies of Chrome Mox haven’t been removed in the list. A very good rate of game one wins help me build my mind; most of the times, a T1 or T2 Empty the Warrens can win single handily. The sideboard, however, must still be perfected. Obviously, cards like Pyroblast or Carpet of Flowers are nowhere near useful in a close to blue-less metagame. Even the Xantid Swarm could most likely be cut to a pair, as I only bring them against Manaless Dredge, which is already a good matchup as they’re vulnerable to Empty the Warrens.
After the Burning Wish essentials, a lot of thought, maybe flawed but none the less reasoned, built the remaining. Abrupt Decay has been my main issue since the beginning of the league. While not optimal here as they’re not needed for Counterbalance, it should still provide a good answer to Chalice of the Void, but this answer was left unused after my advisors took their time and explained its flaws. In this closed meta, the only time I would bring Abrupt Decay in is against all Chalice of the Void, which ends to be Death & Taxes and Merfolk (Affinity doesn’t have them). However, both deck pressuring lands, having a green mana often involves concession elsewhere, like cantripping for an Abrupt Decay instead of business, overall meaning a much slower deck, too slow most of the time by a wide margin. This is why you see so many sweepers in this sideboard, too.
As a new player, I really had to resist the urge not to board them against the advice I received. It all seemed to be, either you reduce your chances to win to extremely unlikely, either you just face the impossible and lose with no other questions. Chalice of the Void is that bad, at least when going on the draw, as they can play it for 0 before you do anything.
And then, a spark of hope! New match-ups analysis, live on this website, brought up the issue and Bryant decided to board Abrupt Decay against Death & Taxes. It seems like my reasoning made some sense over time. Can’t wait to test this out next week.
Despite that, because of its limited use, my first choice for this slot would be Shattering Spree to get rid of both Chalice of the Void and the whole Affinity deck, for a lower cost in both mana and time. But since shipping is that long, I doubt I’ll get my hands on a precious playset before the end of our events. The plan became to side into Abrupt Decay, Grapeshot/Massacre/Pyroclasm felt like a wishable (pun intended, sorry!) solution against Death & Taxes. Sure, Chalice of the Void would still be a pain, but if I cleared the board until I grabbed a Chain of Vapor, I would be in a decent position. This used to be the norm as TES vs D&T. However, a Chalice of the Void at 1 AND at 0, both, would force you to scoop. Yes, it takes quite a card to outshine Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Ethersworn Canonist. A card like Dread of Night felt nice for a while, but also felt short against Ethersworn Canonist, and even more importantly, Stoneforge Mystic. Since I could barely focus on the Chalice of the Void without Abrupt Decay, I intended to take care of what I could, with what I could. Taking out the mind of D&T, sweepers also gave me many games with Affinity or Elves!, wiping their board, giving a few turns, then going of for an assured kills. At worst, sweepers feel like a game loss, at best, like 2-3 Time Walk.
That being said, I would trade most of these sweepers for more reliable, faster sources of victory. With my current knowledge, I however don’t see anything else helping better. And that’s not even talking about the eternal struggle of board in/board out! Even with an optimal sideboard, a balance won’t be found until a great amount of experience is reached. Doing the work alone, this could take a while. Chain of Vapor/ Void Snare, on the opposite, are simple to use and found in most lists. And finally, three copies of Xantid Swarm to feel more dominant against Manaless Dredge and their Force of Will/Disrupting Shoal backups. These would be a flex slot, would I have something better to bring in. I could likely remove one for a Thoughtseize or Dread of Night, but the fear of the Merfolk and Reanimator players showing prevented me from doing so. Yet. On a side note, Dark Petition seems nice, but because of the shipping, I usually wait reports before cards on my own and test them.
And that’s it! The end of our league, as well as two bigger tournaments, are coming close. The following weeks are becoming crucial, and not having a local game store to buy singles makes it hard for us to change our card pool as we would like to. Even with greater retailers like SCG or CFB, shipping cards to an Island can take weeks. Most of us are already waiting on orders. The battle is already fierce. Next week, this series shall bring us to a quick review of the game night, the highlights of some cards, and a few, more detailed, matchup analysis regarding this specific meta game where everyone knows what to expect from a deck, or a player. We must rise above the sea!
Yet indeed, it’s not easy to theory craft or build decks while still learning how to play, but it surely brings out interesting concepts. It’s literally like building a toolbox with tools you misuse far too often. However, with this settled as a start, the rest of the adventure sounds promising. Results shall speak for themselves, as we wait until deliverance and ascension toward Storm mastery.