Through the Looking Glass: Doomsday with Max Carini

Max Carini

Special Guest

A few words on Max Carini:

(Twitter: @wonderpreaux | MTGO: wonderPreaux)

Max Carini is an IT auditor hailing from the Bay Area and a self-described “rectangles-with-text” hobbyist. After watching [[Ad Nauseam]] resolve during coverage of an SCG Open in 2014, Max decided to wade into Legacy Storm combo under the MTGO nome-de-planeswalker “wonderPreaux.” A half-decade later, Max endeavored to leave his house and attend paper events, finishing in the Top 8 of two 3Ks, taking second at the SCG CON Play-4-Power event, and scoring a Top 16 finish at GP Atlanta. Outside of work and Magic, Max has an abiding interest in music and energy drinks.

What are your thoughts on the match-up between The EPIC Storm and [[Doomsday]]?

Broadly, the matchup is favored towards [[Doomsday]]. Both decks are fast, decisive spell-combo decks, but [[Doomsday]] is the more compact combo with a greater count of interactive cards. That said, both decks are highly skill-intensive, and there’s a definite advantage to being the more experienced, aware player at the table, even if a given game can be decided in a few turns.

What sort of interaction does [[Doomsday]] have before sideboarding? What should The EPIC Storm be on the lookout for?

Built up around the hyper-efficient combo of [[Thassa’s Oracle]] and [[Doomsday]] (the card), [[Doomsday]] (the deck) naturally developed around a blue and black color combination. This leaves the The EPIC Storm player in the unfortunate position of contending against the discard spells of a deck like ANT and the counter suite of a deck like Sneak and Show all at once. Historically, this high count of varied interactive pieces only had a parallel in UB Reanimator, which was a nightmare matchup for most other combo decks at the time, and [[Doomsday]] is almost as bad in the current FIRE era. Discard spells will tend to be fired off early to maximize mana-efficiency and utility, but the countermagic is usually zero-cost and can interfere anytime. Cards like [[Force of Will]] and [[Thoughtseize]] are known quantities in the format, so any particularly wariness from the The EPIC Storm side should be directed towards any atypical choices from the [[Doomsday]] player, like splashing a third color, holding up mana for a counter like [[Spell Pierce]], or a special angle of attack like [[Opposition Agent]].

How likely are you to keep a hand with the combo but disruption/protection? Should we expect a [[Doomsday]] opponent to have mulliganed for a [[Thoughtseize]], [[Grief]] or a [[Force of Will]] against an unknown opponent?

Against an unknown opponent, it’s generally more important for the [[Doomsday]] player to have an opening hand that expediently casts its titular card than anything else. While a [[Force of Will]] or supporting combo piece is always welcome, blindly keeping a hand with no path to cast [[Doomsday]] is anywhere from greedy to misguided. Against combo opponents, a hand with redundant protection that can develop lands and cantrips is a fair keep as the [[Doomsday]] player can close the game with a single top deck after the interaction trades off and both players are exhausted. If that top deck never comes, however, it can lead to an eventual loss. For known combo matchups, protection spells are clearly valuable, and barring an immediate game-winning hand, I’d look to keep some way of interacting. Countermagic is better than discard in terms of mana efficiency and, of course, stopping an opposing combo when taking the Draw. Though it’s worth noting The EPIC Storm isn’t quite a turn-1/all-in sort of combo, so I don’t think a pitch-counter is a must in every keep.

How effective do you think [[Empty the Warrens]] is in the matchup? Is it a card that you generally worry about coming from The EPIC Storm?

As a former Storm wizard, I can say from experience that spewing a bunch of tokens onto the board in a spell-combo matchup is definitely underwhelming, given how powerful the spells in Legacy are. That said, resolving [[Empty the Warrens]] is better than nothing. I have won combo matchups with [[Empty the Warrens]] by spotting an early chance to just get something resolved. An early swarm of goblins effectively blanks any hand disruption from the [[Doomsday]] opponent, as well as restricting some of the [[Doomsday]] lines they can take. While [[Empty the Warrens]] is probably the least effective card in the arsenal of threats that conglomerate to make any given The EPIC Storm list, the worst threat is still a threat, and both sides of the table should have it in mind.

Are you worried about losing life against The EPIC Storm? Would you choose to wait to combo in one turn rather than halve your life total the turn before winning?

Spell-combo rarely punishes incidental life loss from things like [[Street Wraith]] or [[Thoughtseize]], and [[Burning Wish]] is a high priority for counters regardless of a low-storm [[Tendrils of Agony]] or [[Empty the Warrens]] kill, so I don’t have a high concern for my life total in the context of this matchup. That said, given the low amount of interaction a The EPIC Storm deck tends to have, it can often be the optimal choice to spend mana on cantrips, discard, and counters until the [[Thassa’s Oracle]] kill can be executed all in one turn. This isn’t about life points, but a more general risk aversion to an opponent exploiting me being tapped out, lower on life, and revealing a lot about what counters I have access to. If I cast a [[Doomsday]] intending to pass the turn, it’s usually very early or very late in the game, where the The EPIC Storm opponent won’t have the developed cards or remaining resources to contest being put in check by an impending [[Thassa’s Oracle]].

What is your sideboard plan against The EPIC Storm?

Lists vary, but I generally stock up on all the countermagic and discard spells I have access to in the sideboard, which can amount to about a third to half of the board. This card count is driven by a lot of other matchups, not combo decks in particular, but the disruption effects are immediately and easily useful, and there’s a lot of chaff that I can afford to board out. In combo matchups, card quality tends to shine, so lower-value cards like [[Personal Tutor]] or [[Cabal Ritual]] can be trimmed as the speed they offer isn’t worth the risk of dead cards that don’t help in a protracted spell exchange. There are also “pile-specific” tools like [[Cavern of Souls]], or [[Edge of Autumn]] that aren’t as important; the “opponent-proofing” these cards provide isn’t going to be relevant in the linear The EPIC Storm matchup. Broadly, the post-board scheme for [[Doomsday]] would skew towards a more “defensive” deck that can continuously disrupt until it eventually rolls out a [[Doomsday]], while still threatening fast kill conversions with cards like [[Dark Ritual]] and [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]].

What hands are you looking to keep or mulligan in post-board games now that you are aware of what your opponent is playing? How aggressively do you mulligan for a hand that contains disruption/counter-magic?

As mentioned above, a keepable hand needs to have a path to casting [[Doomsday]] and, in practical terms of the matchup, “not dying to Storm combo” is likely going to be part of that path. Between threatening a fast [[Thassa’s Oracle]] kill or effectively halting a combo attempt, a keepable hand has to do one of these two things on the way to casting [[Doomsday]], and the more a hand can do one of these, the less it has to do the other. Beyond that general paradigm, I wouldn’t be particularly “aggressive” in mulliganing, as card count is relevant in managing pitch-cards and mana acceleration as important facets of the game.

What is the biggest mistake you see The EPIC Storm players make against [[Doomsday]]? What is the biggest mistake you see [[Doomsday]] players make against The EPIC Storm?

From a macroscopic view of the matchup, The EPIC Storm is the more aggressive deck that needs to jam a spell before falling to the superior disruption count and compact combo of the [[Doomsday]] deck trying to “contain” it. A [[Doomsday]] player that makes a middling approach with a “[[Doomsday]] and pass”, or who doesn’t know how to assess a [[Wishclaw Talisman]] or an [[Echo of Eons]] is probably making themselves overly vulnerable. Conversely, a Storm pilot making anemic keeps trying to pick apart [[Doomsday]] like it’s a control deck will often fall behind all the disruption. Figuring out when you can assert a “check” as the [[Doomsday]] player, or when to slow down to set up a more resilient combo as the Storm player is one of the experience-driven nuances of the matchup and not assessing that game-sense can be a game-deciding mistake.

How do you think The EPIC Storm matchup compares to other combo decks such as Oops! All Spells, Ad Nauseam Tendrils, the mirror, etc?

The EPIC Storm, compared to other combo decks, is probably the least well-equipped to contest other competitive spell combo decks. The “protection” effects The EPIC Storm relies on are usually slanted towards advancing their own combo, which is very effective against a fair Blue player’s counters, but limits The EPIC Storm player to a more “glass-jawed” game against combo decks with more flexible tools. Additionally, by virtue of running more colors and fewer [[Echo of Eons]], there is a speed difference between The EPIC Storm and more aggressive combo decks, so The EPIC Storm player will often be disadvantaged in some major way compared to other competitive spell combos. In the case of [[Doomsday]], this makes The EPIC Storm an easier combo matchup, because The EPIC Storm isn’t substantially faster and isn’t as effective at interaction.

What does The EPIC Storm have to do to be successful against [[Doomsday]] in the current metagame?

As mentioned above, there are fundamental disadvantages The EPIC Storm player has to overcome in the context of a lot of combo matchups. There are various “silver bullets” and hard skews a Storm player could make towards combo, but, I really doubt those would ever be worth the trouble given the relatively low meta percentage any given combo deck has. These combo matchups aren’t necessarily unwinnable, and [[Doomsday]], while not favored, is a winnable matchup given some good draws and good plays. the games The EPIC Storm wins will likely be well-executed aggressive pushes that maximize the pilot’s ability to break past disruption and stay ahead of the looming [[Thassa’s Oracle]].

In order to beat [[Doomsday]], The EPIC Storm has considered sideboard cards like, [[Thoughtseize]], [[Dress Down]], [[Brain Freeze]], and [[Opposition Agent]]. Of these, which do you think is best and why?

Of these options, the best one is almost certainly [[Thoughtseize]], and there’s a litany of similar / worse “silver bullets” you can append to this that I would rate [[Thoughtseize]] above as well. Of these options, [[Thoughtseize]] is a cheap, flexible option that is coherent to what The EPIC Storm is actually trying to do in the first place. Awkwardly and conspicuously holding up mana on the chance to get a severe punish maybe gets a game off an inexperienced [[Doomsday]] pilot, and The EPIC Storm player will be hard-pressed to justify why they invested valuable sideboard slots for a card like [[Brain Freeze]] that applies to a tiny meta share. [[Thoughtseize]] suits The EPIC Storm plan of quickly deploying the format’s best spell combo bombs in service of the most broken spell mechanic.

How effective do you think [[Sheoldred, The Apocalypse]] is in the matchup?

[[Sheoldred, The Apocalypse]] doesn’t strike me as an effective tool as there’s no major advantage to tapping out for it compared to [[Doomsday]] and, unlike the [[Doomsday]] mirror, it’s not a hard-stop for The EPIC Storm.

What does the ideal [[Doomsday]] pile look like in the match-up? How does this change in games 2 and 3?

Barring a particular technical need, like a [[Brainstorm]] pile to close the game after a turn-one [[Doomsday]] or a pile built to be resilient to an [[Echo of Eons]], a pile really just needs to cast a [[Thassa’s Oracle]]. Special tricks like [[Deep Analysis]] or [[Ideas Unbound]] usually aren’t needed and, if anything, leave the [[Doomsday]] player vulnerable if The EPIC Storm opponent does have some odd tech card like [[Surgical Extraction]] or [[Silence]]. After clearing far enough into a pile to make [[Thassa’s Oracle]] lethal, I’ll usually include some sort of backup like a discard spell or second [[Thassa’s Oracle]] as a precaution or catch-all, or consider hiding my own tech in spare pile slots.

Any final thoughts or comments? Any plugs or shoutouts?

The EPIC Storm and [[Doomsday]] communities have a lot of resources available in their respective dedicated sites and discords, so, definitely give that a look. I find both The EPIC Storm and [[Doomsday]] to be fun, interesting combo decks and I would recommend them both as competitive and compelling forays into Legacy, even if there is a bit of a learning curve to each deck.

I would like to take a moment to thank Max Carini for joining Through the Looking Glass and providing some spectacular responses on the Doomsday versus The EPIC Storm match-up.

Until next time, keep storming!