Tom Hepp

Special Guest

A few words on Tom Hepp

(Twitter: @negator77)

Tom is a Legacy and dog lover from just outside of Philadelphia. He have made the top eight of two of the MTGO Legacy Playoff events, won an SCG Legacy Classic, and was atop the most recent Legacy trophy race on MTGO. After a few years of running his trusty Depths lists, rumor has it that he may be branching out beyond making 20/20’s and learning other strategies including The EPIC Storm.

How do you feel about Rainbow Depths in the current metagame? And what are your general thoughts about the matchup with The EPIC Storm?

I think Rainbow Depths is positioned roughly the same as a slew of other strategies just below the various snow piles and RUG Delver. It does have a favorable RUG Delver matchup in my opinion and a fighting chance or better versus most of the other top decks. It’s the type of deck you can do very well with, but not one you should be picking if the primary goal is to win a high-level event right now.

The primary plan for Rainbow Depths in the matchup is to try and disrupt them as soon and as heavily as possible given that The EPIC Storm is just a faster combo deck. It is a really interesting matchup with both sides having explosive combos and cards that can disrupt what the other side is doing. The EPIC Storm has copies of [[Veil of Summer]] to fight discard and counters, copies of [[Defense Grid]] to fight [[Flusterstorm]], [[Stifle]], and sneaky [[Crop Rotation]] kills, and copies of [[Chain of Vapor]] post-board to fight 20/20’s, [[Pithing Needle]], [[Leyline of the Void]], and [[Collector Ouphe]]. Rainbow Depths has the proactive discard spells as well as copies of [[Vampire Hexmage]], [[Stifle]], and [[Pithing Needle]] to fight [[Wishclaw Talisman]], and [[Flusterstorm]] to fight the big payoff spells. This is not a “two ships passing in the night“ matchup, especially post-board. Sometimes the game will end on turns one-three due to the nature of broken draws/combos, but that is more the exception and not the rule.

What sort of interaction do Rainbow Depths decks have before sideboarding? What should The EPIC Storm be on the look-out for?

The primary pieces of interaction from the Rainbow Depths side in game one is the eight discard spells, [[Pithing Needle]]s, [[Stifle]]s, and [[Wasteland]]. The EPIC Storm is set up well to fight vs discard since it runs playsets of [[Veil of Summer]], [[Brainstorm]], and [[Ponder]]. One of the main things to keep in mind with regards to the disruption package is to be careful with hands that rely entirely on [[Wishclaw Talisman]]. Those lines can get shut down by [[Pithing Needle]] naming [[Wishclaw Talisman]] as well as getting blown out by [[Stifle]] on the claw activation if cracking an [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] is involved. Generally, trying to engineer situations where [[Wishclaw Talisman]] is activated without discarding the remainder of your hand will lead to better outcomes since [[Stifle]] just becomes a stalling tactic in that spot since [[Wishclaw Talisman]] will stay on the The EPIC Storm players side of the battlefield. [[Vampire Hexmage]] also cleanly trades with [[Wishclaw Talisman]] if you have to pass the turn without using it.

How likely are you to keep a hand without disruption and protection? Should we expect our opponent to have mulliganed for an [[Stifle]], [[Wasteland]], or [[Thoughtseize]]?

In game one, with eight discard spells, two copies of both [[Stifle]] and [[Pithing Needle]] as well as nine tutors plus [[Wasteland]], there are very few hands where one or more disruption elements will not be present. In post-board games, it is even less likely with the addition of [[Flusterstorm]] and [[Collector Ouphe]] unless I’m on the play and kept an all-in hand that can make a turn one or turn two 20/20. Giving the The EPIC Storm pilot more than two turns to goldfish is usually a losing proposition and should be avoided given how well Rainbow Depths tends to mulligan.

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?

Empty the Warrens is pretty medium versus Rainbow Depths unless it is coming down on turn one for ten or more Goblins. [[Empty the Warrens]] is not all that concerning because Rainbow Depths can often just flat out race it by making a fast Marit Lage. It is way more common to lose to [[Ad Nauseam]], [[Peer into the Abyss]], and [[Echo of Eons]] into [[Tendrils of Agony]] or [[Grapeshot]] lines.

Rainbow Depths decks have added blue based disruption like [[Stifle]] to their main deck, what has changed in the meta for this?

[[Pithing Needle]] has always been a card that Rainbow Depths reluctantly added to the main deck to fight [[Wasteland]] and other answers to [[Dark Depths]]/Marit Lage. [[Stifle]] is just a much more versatile version of [[Pithing Needle]]. Previous concerns about adding a third color weakening the deck’s mana were shown to be overblown to the point where the mana in the Rainbow lists is better than stock BG turbo. The rise of decks like [[Doomsday]] where discard spells often aren’t enough versus the one card combo deck with [[Force of Will]], [[Daze]], and [[Brainstorm]] also contributed. While you can’t [[Thoughtseize]] the top of their deck, you can [[Stifle]] the [[Thassa’s Oracle]] trigger. Many fast snowball style cards that can run away with the game like [[Dreadhorde Arcanist]], [[Oko, Thief of Crowns]], and [[Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath]] existing also really increase the value of cards like [[Stifle]] that can delay their arrival by at least a turn. The ability to reactively interact with other [[Crop Rotation]] decks with [[Stifle]] instead of guessing with [[Pithing Needle]] and getting hit with a different problematic land is also invaluable.

Does the inclusion of [[Veil of Summer]] in The EPIC Storm affect your gameplan?

It’s an issue for sure, but Rainbow Depths really isn’t in a position to reconfigure the list to minimize its impact. Generally, the plan is to just find windows to resolve discard around it or power through it. One thing that comes up is just not casting a discard spell if we know or are convinced that the opponent has [[Veil of Summer]] in hand. In post-board games, leaving [[Flusterstorm]] up early until we can protect a discard spell is a line that often comes up on the draw.

What other disruption pieces do you look at utilizing in this matchup? Are cards like [[Oko, Thief of Crowns]], [[Abrupt Decay]], or even [[Veil of Summer]] in your list?

There are copies of [[Abrupt Decay]] in the sideboard, but we have better disruption to bring in post-board including [[Flusterstorm]] and [[Collector Ouphe]]. While [[Abrupt Decay]] can hit key artifacts like an early [[Wishclaw Talisman]] or [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] at times, the presence of [[Veil of Summer]] in The EPIC Storm not only allows the storm pilot to hold artifacts in their hand completely protected from discard, but also protects them from [[Abrupt Decay]] while in play. This dynamic makes [[Abrupt Decay]] worse than it previously was. If you are looking to attack artifacts versus The EPIC Storm and want more than [[Collector Ouphe]], [[Force of Vigor]] is a better option than [[Abrupt Decay]] since it is not vulnerable to [[Veil of Summer]]. There are no copies of [[Oko, Thief of Crowns]] or [[Veil of Summer]] in the current list.

How do you typically sideboard against The EPIC Storm?

I typically side out [[Bojuka Bog]] and three copies of [[Not of This World]] on the play. While [[Not of This World]] interacts with [[Chain of Vapor]], that is not what this matchup is about. Those four cards get replaced by three copies of [[Flusterstorm]] and a [[Collector Ouphe]]. On the draw, I also board out a copy of [[Elvish Reclaimer]] and [[Sylvan Scrying]] to make room for two copies of [[Leyline of the Void]] to help fight vs early [[Echo of Eons]] lines.

How do you value cards such as [[Surgical Extraction]], [[Force of Vigor]], or [[Leyline of the Void]] against The EPIC Storm?

The graveyard hate is pretty mediocre in my opinion. [[Surgical Extraction]] can sometimes remove [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] or [[Burning Wish]], but is fairly clunky and doesn’t generally help versus most of the faster kill hands from The EPIC Storm. It has [[Peek]] mode to see if the coast is clear from [[Chain of Vapor]] and can break up protective [[Brainstorm]] as well, but just doesn’t do enough to always justify the space post-board. [[Leyline of the Void]] is also clunky if it’s not in the opening hand, but it does shut down [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] plus [[Echo of Eons]] lines which is valuable. [[Force of Vigor]] is also fine against certain draws, but can often be played/sequenced around, and the green card count is fairly low to the point where we often would have to use a tutor to be able to cast it timely. There are generally 0-2 slots at best for these cards in games 2/3. I generally like [[Leyline of the Void]] on the draw to cut off one of the ways The EPIC Storm can go to town on our turn zero. [[Surgical Extraction]] has more value on the play when we know there is a clean window to resolve a discard spell on turn one versus the [[Veil of Summer]] deck.

Do you run [[Collector Ouphe]] in your sideboard? If so, how aggressively do you mulligan for it? How essential is it to your plan?

There is only one copy of [[Collector Ouphe]] in Rainbow Depths currently, so it is not a card you can really mulligan for effectively. It’s part of a broader package of cards that allow the deck to have a critical mass of disruption vs various decks. The idea is once you get to around 15-20 or more cards that can either be termed disruption or double as disruption, you will have some number of those cards in almost every hand. You can then freely mulligan to a hand that has combo plus disruption and/or has a backbreaking sideboard card like [[Collector Ouphe]]. It is not essential to the game plan, just a sledgehammer in the games where it shows up.

What is the biggest mistake you see The EPIC Storm players make against Rainbow Depths? What is the biggest mistake you see Rainbow Depths players make against The EPIC Storm?

The most common mistake I’ve seen The EPIC Storm players make recently is not respecting [[Crop Rotation]] and/or fast mana enough. No green or blue mana showing doesn’t mean the Rainbow Depths pilot has no access to them. [[Elvish Spirit Guide]] into [[Crop Rotation]] speeds up kills at times, but also can get a Rainbow land even when tapped out to cast[[Stifle]] or [[Flusterstorm]]. [[Crop Rotation]] can also be used to up the storm count before casting a [[Flusterstorm]] as well.

I’ve seen several Rainbow Depths pilots make an end of turn 20/20 with no way to protect it into an active [[Wishclaw Talisman]] without realizing that since it is still the The EPIC Storm players turn that they can still tutor up a [[Chain of Vapor]] to bounce Marit Lage. Outside of that, not leveraging the London Mulligan enough. This matchup is often condensed into a relatively small number of turns and making sure our hands can either win early or significantly disrupt the The EPIC Storm pilot immediately is incredibly important.

How do you think The EPIC Storm matchup compares to other [[Dark Ritual]] combo decks such as [[Ad Nauseam]] Tendrils or [[Doomsday]]?

The EPIC Storm is a more difficult matchup than ANT or [[Doomsday]] for Rainbow Depths. The EPIC Storm is often faster than either of those decks and also has four main deck copies of [[Veil of Summer]] to reduce the impact of a lot of the Rainbow Depths players’ disruption. On top of that, graveyard hate is generally mediocre against The EPIC Storm, but can be extremely powerful versus ANT and [[Doomsday]]. Against ANT, [[Surgical Extraction]] on [[Infernal Tutor]] is an excellent line while [[Leyline of the Void]] or [[Crop Rotation]] for [[Bojuka Bog]] can reduce the effectiveness of [[Cabal Ritual]] and shut down [[Past in Flames]] entirely. Against [[Doomsday]], [[Surgical Extraction]] is capable of winning the game on the spot if a copy of [[Doomsday]] ends up in the graveyard because it was hit by a discard spell or countered by a [[Flusterstorm]].

Do you have any additional insight to share about the matchup? Any tips or tricks for either side?

Both sides should be aware that [[Crop Rotation]] or [[Elvish Reclaimer]] into [[Sejiri Steppe]] is not just for protecting Marit Lage, it can also protect [[Collector Ouphe]] in games where it is shutting multiple artifacts down.

[[Vampire Hexmage]] can be used to take the counters off [[Wishclaw Talisman]], just make sure it’s not on the The EPIC Storm players turn or they will be able to activate it in response.

Sandbagging cards like [[Lotus Petal]] to try and hide the speed of your kill is generally not worth it in the face of them being able to shuffle your hand away with [[Echo of Eons]] at any given moment.

It is often correct to make a Marit Lage token even in the face of a [[Chain of Vapor]]. They won’t always have it, but even when they do, a chain on a 20/20 is one less answer to something like [[Collector Ouphe]] or [[Leyline of the Void]] and also one less card that can up the storm count by bouncing multiple artifacts and replaying them.

If the game ends up in a spot where the Depths player gets a turn with control over a [[Wishclaw Talisman]], it can search up [[Pithing Needle]] in game one or [[Collector Ouphe]] post-board to shut down the onboard claw and all of the remaining claws. In the case of [[Collector Ouphe]], all other artifacts as well.

Some exhibition matches of Rainbow Depths versus The EPIC Storm with Bryant Cook was played about two months ago and analyzed from the Depths side here: Youtube!

This is a bit older (almost a year old) and from a general BG Depths perspective, but a matchup guide on how to sideboard versus The EPIC Storm, the ways Depths tools interact versus The EPIC Storm, and general matchup info is here: Google Docs!

Any shout-outs, plugs, or anything else you would like to mention?

Thank you Theo and The EPIC Storm for asking me to be a part of this fantastic series. If anyone would like to discuss the matchup or has any questions about it, they can feel free to reach out to me on twitter @negator77