2016 Storm Primer

Last weekend, wordpress notified me that it’s been five years since I’ve started this blog. Sentimental as I am, I decided to go back to the beginning: A Storm Primer. My very first post (which has since been deleted) was a primer on my (then) innovative Storm deck, Grinding Station. Back then, there was no Miracles, no Deathrite Shaman, no Thalia and no Thought-Knot Seer.

Now, these things exist. But Grinding Station has adapted:

storm_2016q3

(decktats.net link)

daze-storm

(deckstats.net link)

Hold on a second there! That’s two lists!

I recognise that there are different kinds of metagames. Those that have more blue-based fair decks and those that have more combo and prison decks.

The first list, labelled Grinding Station, is tailored towards a heavy presence of Miracles and Delver strategies, which require you to be more resilient but also allow a fair amount of setup time. The second list (Ad Nauseam Tendrils) is geared for a metagame with large amounts of maindeck permanent hate (Chalice of the Void, Thalia) and opposing combo decks, which call for cheap interaction in the form of Daze and faster combo kills, fuelled by Ad Nauseam and Dark Petition.

To put things in perspective, the first list is what I played on Magic Online for the better part of the past half year, while the second is what I build for Kai Sawatari to bring to GP Chiba (which he then did not play because he devoted too much time to playing Daze Miracles and too little to Storm).

That being said, the two lists essentially share 72 cards (technically only 69), with only two spells being different between the lists. While percentages for preboard games get changed around a bit, the differences are barely noticeable in sideboarded games, which is why there is one primer for both lists. Because there is one shared primer, I will look at broader groups of cards rather than specific configurations. Let’s get started!

4 Infernal Tutor / 1 Past in Flames / 1 Tendrils of Agony

This is the cornerstone of the deck’s engine, the cards that reward you for playing Dark Rituals. With the exception of the Miracles matchup (more on that later), you should never cut down on these cards

1 Past in Flames / 1 Tendrils of Agony / 1 Empty the Warrens

This is what completes the ‘Grinding Station’ approach. You want the second Past in Flames against decks that are heavy on countermagic or discard, but lacking in regards of graveyard hate. Miracles and Delver decks are usually very heavy on countermagic while neglecting graveyard hate. Yes, there are some Miracles list with Rest in Peace, but you usually don’t need to worry about that. Delver decks also often have Deathrite Shaman, but that’s not real graveyard hate; you will be able to assemble a Past in Flames kill through one Deathrite fairly often.

The second Tendrils is there to combat decks that mostly rely on countermagic to beat Storm, although it can be valuable to have more than one Storm spell against discard as well. Tendrils is very hard to interact with on the stack, and if you cast a lethal Tendrils from your hand, your opponent will be hard pressed to find a Flusterstorm.

Empty is a card I have historically disliked as a one-off, but I quite like it right now. While there are clearly better ways to beat the non-blue decks, I think it’s a great alternative to the third Tendrils against Delver decks right now. Further, in the Grinding Station version of the deck, it serves as a way to go off early from minimal resources, which is very helpful against the non-blue decks. I think Empty the Warrens is more relevant as a maindeck card in Grinding Station than a sideboard card in Daze Storm, although I still like to have access to it there.

1 Ad Nauseam / 1 Dark Petition / 1 Chrome Mox

With one exception (which is again the Miracles matchup), these cards are one package. Ad Nauseam Tendrils has always had the problem of being low on business spells, but Dark Petition has finally given the deck what it needed. If you have mana, it can grab you business; if you have Infernal Tutor, you can get an LED to get hellbent for +1 mana.

The decks that you want Ad Nauseam against are those that try to lock you out of the game with Chalice of the Void or Sphere effects and those that will try to assemble a combo kill before you can. In those matchups, I have found the best plan to be commiting to the race and going as fast as you can. You’re not looking to make many land drops here, so the Chrome Mox is much better than your fifteenth land — not only does it give you extra fast mana to initiate a combo turn, it also gives you an additional initial mana source to reveal with Ad Nauseam.

4 Brainstorm / 4 Ponder / 4 Gitaxian Probe

4 Brainstorm because this is Legacy. 4 Ponder because this is Legacy. 4 Gitaxian Probe because this is Storm.

I never board out any of these cards with one exception: I board out one Ponder against Delver decks (although not against Team America).

1 Sensei’s Divining Top

I think at least one Top is necessary. Not only do I want it against Delver (where I honestly want only one copy), but I also really want it against Miracles. It’s not great against the non-blue decks and not super consistent in combo mirrors, which is why it’s in the sideboard of the more aggressive list. You can’t afford wasting too much time on cantrips in many matchups.

1 Preordain / 1 Sensei’s Divining Top

Interestingly, even though this is a semi-flex-slot and the one Top is guaranteed to be  in the deck, this is in fact the ninth cantrip slot. Preordain is definitely the more consistent card, but it also has a much lower ceiling. It has a slightly higher floor though, and against non-blue decks, you are by default under pressure. This is why I think Preordain should get the nod in the more aggressive list.

I don’t think it would be wrong to split Top with Preordain even in Grinding Station, especially because the list has another card vs. Miracles anyway.

4 Dark Ritual / 4 Cabal Ritual / 4 Lion’s Eye Diamond / 4 Lotus Petal

Really the only thing worth mentioning here is the absence of Rain of Filth. I would play it as a ninth ritual and have played it as my eighth ritual in the past, but the way I currently play against blue decks, I mostly try to brute-force my way through countermagic. In those games, Rain really isn’t optimal.

I wish I had space for Rain to bring alongside Ad Nauseam though. As a matter of fact, there was a point when I was running Rain in the sideboard of an earlier list, but then I went back to playing Carpets again and the space just isn’t there anymore.

1 Island / 1 Swamp

I just don’t like the second basic Island when running four colours.

1 Tropical Island / 2 Underground Sea / 1 Volcanic Island

Yup.

4 Polluted Delta / 4 Flooded Strand / 4 Misty Rainforest

Delta is an easy one, Grinding Station has Strand because it doesn’t have Bayou nor Badlands, so you can bluff Miracles every now and then. This does actually work, especially if you sometimes do play Miracles. Misty is worse than Scalding Tarn in Grinding Station because that also represents Miracles, but that is so irrelevant that I haven’t bothered buying a Tarn on Magic Online. We could also potentially run Bloodstained Mire or Verdant Catacombs to give us easier access to basic Swamp, but I haven’t felt the need yet.

The Ad Nauseam Tendrils list has Misty Rainforest over Strand because it has Bayou. Let me elaborate:

1 Misty Rainforest / 1 Bayou

This honestly barely matters. Whatever is in that slot gets boarded out against non-blue decks anyway (or not brought in, depending on which list you pick). As with Preordain vs. Top, the fetchland is the more consistent choice. Bayou is minimally better against Miracles and Grixis Delver though, which are the only deck I ever bring the fifteenth land against with the maindeck Daze list.

2 Carpet of Flowers

I value rituals more highly than other Storm players seem to do. Carpet is the opposite of Rain of Filth, in a way. While Rain is mostly great against non-blue decks where you’re looking to go off once, as early as possible, Carpet is great against the blue decks you’re trying to brute force against. Being able to cast three engine spells over three turns is really strong. Not losing an extra card whenever you go for it makes a world of difference.

3 Cabal Therapy / 3 Duress

Yes, I finally went below four Therapies. I have been very adamant about this in the past. As it often goes in life, things changed. Legacy has become a lot more condensed in the sense that games are decided earlier on (largely thanks to Eldrazi, but Aggro Loam is also involved in this). Thus, you don’t always have enough time to collect information for your Therapies (be it through logical reasoning, soul reads or Gitaxian Probe). It’s more important to hit early now and Duress does that better than Therapy. Because Therapy is still the better card when you do have information, the split remains even at this point.

In general, I don’t like how discard lines up against permament hate, which is why I’m looking to board out all of my discard spell against non-blue decks. I usually want all of my discard against decks with countermagic though.

4 Daze

I guess this is what separates my list from others the most, but to be honest, Daze is old news for me at this point. The card is simply great against decks that rely on permanent hate. Ad Nauseam Tendrils (which Grinding Station becomes after sideboarding in those matchups) has 40-45% to goldfish by turn two on the play. Most decks with permanent hate are not consistently able to interact with us before turn two. If we can reliably stop them from interacting on turn two, we go into the territory of turn three goldfish kills, which are somewhere in the 80% range.

Further, Daze solves the dilemma of cantrip vs. discard on turn one by virtue of being free. The drawback of returning a land is negligible because chances are, we would have to spend mana to deal with our opponent’s permanent anyway.

Daze is the most widely applicable anti-hate card, which is why it gets the nod over cards like Dread of Night, Masscre or Hurkyl’s Recall, which might be more powerful in certain matchups, but have the drawback of being quite narrow.

3 Abrupt Decay

Decay is just the best removal spell there is. It’s clearly optimal against Counterbalance and it’s the card that has the best balance of being able to deal with Chalice and creature hate. There are obviously better solutions for either type of permanent, but slots are limited.

The one thing that is really annoying about Abrupt Decay is that it doesn’t hit Leylines, but unfortunately, there really are no good options for those.

2 Flusterstorm

I really like these. Not only are they great vs. opposing combo decks in countering Show and Tell, Reanimate, Natural Order or Infernal Tutor. But they also work very well against Miracles. Flusterstorm is a pretty good answer to opposing Flusterstorms that has the benefit of being really flexible.

Especially the interaction between Flusterstorm and Ad Nauseam wins a decent amount of games. With Ad Nauseam being instant-speed, you can often time it so that your opponent does not have access to all of their countermagic you can cast it during your end step, when your opponent has either spend their mana on library manipulation or goes for a Vendilion Clique, or you can cast it in response to a Counterbalance. On top of that, you get to cast Ad Nauseam more freely during your opponent’s end step (which already is a great option to overload their mana).

1 Dark Petition / 1 Krosan Grip

This is the one slot between the two lists that is truly different. Quite frankly though, there isn’t much to say about it. If anything, this slot just further exemplifies what the two different lists try to accomplish. Petition in Ad Nauseam Tendrils, that you expect to end up in many goldfish-situations with, Krosan Grip in Grinding Station, that you expect to face a bunch of Miracles with.

That’s it for the lists. If you’re looking for additional thoughts on any of these cards, check out The Storm Box. If there’s something you’d like to know that isn’t covered there, let me know in the comments on this blog or hit me up on twitter (@JonLX). I also check the Storm thread over at mtgthesource.com every now and then.

Before I leave you, I guess people often ask for boarding plans, so I figured I’d give you plans for both lists: Grinding Station google doc & Ad Nauseam Tendrils google doc.

Thanks for reading!

J

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