#45 — We are probably not playing enough cantrips in our blue decks.
A few weeks ago, Julian Knab published an article for which he polled a number of long-time, more or less well-known Legacy players on their top five Legacy decks. Most of us put Miracles as #1 and Storm as #2 (myself included). I think the reason is that these are the most consistent decks in the format.
In the week leading up to #GPSeaTac, I strongly considered playing Miracles, despite being infinitely more experienced with Storm. The sole reason was the fact that Miracles is probably the single most consistent deck I have ever played. You get to do the same things almost every single game. What you do is not overly powerful, at least by Legacy standards, but consistency on that level is a huge boon when you’re looking to play a fifteen-round tournament.
Storm has less digging power than Miracles overall, but in the early turns, the lower cost of Gitaxian Probe and Preordain compared to Sensei’s Divining Top is great. And if you’re not looking to play long games anyway, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have infinite digging power.
I don’t think we’re trying to emulate these engines enough in other blue decks. To make room for Ponder, Miracles cut down on interactive spells. While previously there were Spell Snare and Spell Pierce, now there’s just Ponder. The deck is less well-rounded now, but much more focused (and with its sideboard, it can be laser-focused against almost all decks).
When Dig Through Time was legal, I was playing Four Colour Delver with some copies of Preordains on top of the usual Brainstorm plus Ponder package. For a deck with a range of cards this wide — from Daze to Deathrite Shaman to Lightning Bolt to Tarmogoyf — it was incredibly consistent. Of course, there was also Dig Through Time, but I still don’t think we’re trying hard enough to make the 10+ cantrip shell work in decks other than Miracles and combo decks.
#46 — Know your combo lines so you can focus on putting them together when playing.
This might come as a surprise, but Storm is much easier to play when you don’t have to think about your combo lines. I’m not saying it’s necessary to know all possible combinations of cards that allow for lethal Tendrils of Agony, but knowing that Past in Flames with one black mana floating lets you cast Dark Ritual into Cabal Ritual into Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony makes life easier.
Another thing to keep in mind is the four-plus-three-rule. Four mana plus three mana gives you enough mana to cast Infernal Tutor into Ad Nauseam or Infernal Tutor into Past in Flames with one mana floating. Infernal Tutor for an extra Dark Ritual is mana neutral on your combo turn, but it generates an extra three mana with Past in Flames — two from the Ritual and another because you can use the Infernal Tutor to get a Lion’s Eye Diamond or Cabal Ritual.
When you naturally draw Past in Flames with Infernal Tutor and Lion’s Eye Diamond, you can either use your Infernal Tutor to get an extra Cabal Ritual or a discard spell to protect your combo. If they counter your Infernal Tutor, you flash back Past in Flames, if they don’t, you let them discard their counterspell.
These things are second nature to most who have some experience with Storm, but new players often struggle with them. I generally don’t think goldfishing is a great use of your time, but with Storm it makes sense. Many of the best Storm players have spent hundreds of hours playing the deck, but most of them are still constantly goldfishing.
Before you take Storm to a tournament for the first time, goldfish a couple hundred games. It will pay off. You will see lines you otherwise wouldn’t, you can make actions faster because you don’t have to count mana and Storm for every single cantrip decision and you will save a lot of energy, which is certainly important when you’re playing a deck where small mistakes can easily cost you games.
#47 — Weigh what you are missing vs. how deep you can dig for mulligan decisions.
When evaluating opening hands with Storm, you have to ask yourself which parts of your combo you already have, what you are missing and how many extra cards you get to see.
In many cases, your combo consists of one or two rituals, a copy of Lion’s Eye Diamond, a tutor effect and maybe a discard spell or two, depending on the matchup. There are other ways to win, of course. Sometimes you just need a cantrip, a ritual, an artifact and Empty the Warrens. Rituals plus Past in Flames plus Tendrils also killed many of my opponents in the past. Naturally casting Ad Nauseam from your hand is also not uncommon.
As a rule of thumb, I tend to keep every hand that has at least as many cantrips as it is missing pieces. If my hand has three lands, and one each of Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor and Ponder, that’s a keep (albeit not a great one). If my hand is all lands and Rituals with one Ponder, I am going to ship it.
One aspect that can break this rule is the number of discard spells I have. Two lands, two rituals, two discard spells and a Ponder is a keep, despite being low on combo pieces and cantrips. The key here is that the discard spell will buy me additional draw steps, thus slightly increasing my hands digging power.
#48 — Dark Petition can be either Infernal or Lion’s Eye Diamond.
It took me a while to come to a conclusion regarding Dark Petition. Now I think that Dark Petition is great if you want to have a Tutor + LED deck. If you don’t want to be that deck, Dark Petition is not very good. That’s because you want to be the Tutor-based deck when you don’t expect your spells to get countered.
The amount of countermagic in Legacy is very low right now. When I first started playing Storm, it was common for many decks to have up to twelve counterspells, even before sideboarding. Nowadays, Miracles has about six before sideboarding, while most Sultai decks have a set of Forces and maybe some Dazes. Delver decks have cut down on Stifles and Spell Snares and the amount of non-blue decks in the winning metagame has increased.
What makes Dark Petition great is how seamlessly it fits into the Infernal + LED shell. It can be an additional copy of Infernal Tutor if you have Rituals plus LED, but it can also be used as an extra Diamond if you have rituals, Infernal Tutor, Dark Petition and a number of cards that prevent you from becoming hellbent.
With Dark Petition, the Infernal Tutor + LED deck is incredibly consistent. Rather than having four pieces each, you now have six, with built-in flooding protection. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out Storm could be build to be even more aggressive than the list Caleb Scherer brought to prominence.
#49 — Sometimes you don’t have Spell Mastery.
This is almost impossible in Legacy, but it does come up. Just keep this in mind. I already tried going off with Dark Petition only to realise it was a five mana spell rather than a two mana spell. That was the only time I saw it happen in Legacy so far though, and I now have ~250 games with Dark Petition under my belt.
#50 — Cabal Therapy is not strictly better than other discard spells.
In the past, I have been rather adamant about always running four copies of Cabal Therapy maindeck, because of how much better it is than all the other options. Cabal Therapy hits all the cards Duress, Thoughtseize and even Inquisition of Kozilek can take, so on powerlevel alone, we do have a clear winner.
What I failed to take into account was how often you have insufficient information to make a good decision. This is most relevant when facing decks that mainly interact through permanents like Chalice of the Void and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, where you have to fire off your discard before they can hit the battlefield. I’d wager these situations are bound to crop up more frequently now that there is finally a good Chalice of the Void deck in the format.
#51 — The Storm Box needs to be updated.
When I first wrote my primer on reasonable Storm card choices, Dark Petition wasn’t a card. Aggro Loam was not a deck. Obviously Eldrazi Stompy wasn’t either. Many things have changed, especially in regards to the removal spells we can and should play in our Storm decks. A year ago, Echoing Truth was not a card I thought was reasonable to play ever. That has changed. I never expected to run Hurkyl’s Recall again, but alas, I do now.
There are other things that need an overhaul, and I will start reworking the article as soon as I have finished the two other projects I am currently working on.
#52 — In many matchups, you only need to win one game after sideboarding.
Recently, I started thinking about how matches with Storm play out. A large portion of the time, you win your game one. What this means is that in the context of winning a match, you don’t need a great win percentage overall in your sideboard games. You only need to win one of them, which you are guaranteed to be on the play.
Being on the play for game three has always made Storm very threatening and hard to prepare for, especially with non-blue decks. But now I’m wondering if there is a way to take advantage of this. Maybe there is a way to make the deck extra strong on the play.