Legacy Combo: Paul Clifford does The Epic Storm (TES)
It was a dark and stormy night; the dice tumbled in torrents – except at occasion rolls off the table, when the Storm count was checked by a gleeful Flusterstorm which swept up all the copies (for it is in Ottawa that our scene lies), rattling over the Chalice of the Voids, and fiercely agitating the players of non-blue decks that struggled against the darkness.
If there's any intro that is more known than the epic, “It was a dark and stormy night”, I’m not sure what it is. I have to admit, I didn’t know that Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Paul Clifford is the original source for this infamous line. Be that as it may, I can’t imagine spoofing any other literary introduction for the deck known as The Epic Storm (TES).
The Epic Storm
TES (credit to Bryant Cook) is a deck that primarily wins through two different Storm spells – Tendrils of Agony and Empty the Warrens. The Storm mechanic is one of the most powerful mechanics in Magic. It reads “When you cast this spell, copy it for each spell cast before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies”. An important distinction is that it counts all spells cast by both players, so as an opponent, be very careful about how you interact with TES when they are trying to combo off.
Winning with Tendrils of Agony is more complex than Empty the Warrens. Given that you're going to use most of the cards in your hand to create copies, you need to ensure that you're draining your opponent for lethal life loss. You don’t want to fall short of lethal with nothing left in your hand. Also, keeping track of the life totals in the game can aid you immensely when calculating how many spells you need to end the game. In Legacy, your opponent can easily deal themselves several points of damage through the use of Ancient Tomb, Thoughtseize, Force of Will and various fetchlands. So track life totals closely!
Empty the Warrens creates a bunch of one-powered goblins. Since they need to use the combat step, you aren’t going to be killing your opponent on the turn you cast it. Depending on how many you're able to create, it’s going to take an additional couple of turns of attacking to win the game. The key point is that you don’t have to have an exact number unlike Tendrils of Agony. Eight or more goblins are usually sufficient to win the game if they come down early enough.
One of the main ways to set up these win conditions is Ad Nauseam. If this card resolves, you are very likely to win the game. You're going to lose life revealing cards, but this deck has one of the lowest average casting costs of any deck. The full sixty cards have an average casting cost of 0.85. Given that there's only one copy of Ad Nauseam, you're not revealing it if you cast it! Removing that and averaging the other fifty-nine cards, you get an even more ridiculous 0.79. May the odds be ever in your favour! Once you find enough cards to complete your combo, it's rarely ever anything but a win.
Past that, you also have Past in Flames as another set up card. It requires a little more work, as you have to cast a Burning Wish to retrieve it from the board. I’m not sure of all of the ways that you could sideboard after game one, but it might find its way into the main deck at some point too. There are a few other notable cards in the sideboard like Dark Petition, Grapeshot, and Telemin Performance that can come in handy, but are more of an edge case scenario.
While TES is a new deck for me personally, I've played many combo decks in the past including the similar Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) deck. There are a few reasons to try this deck out. One is the perceived notion that TES is a faster deck by about a half turn. If I can get under the hate for Storm decks quickly, it's definitely something I want to do! Another reason is that this version is said to be stronger against Death and Taxes, and Blood Moon decks. These style of decks are always present where I play. Hate cards like Chalice of the Void, Thorn of Amethyst, and Trinisphere can be dealt with as well. All of these *can* be dealt with, but it's still very possible to lose.
I’ve had the opportunity to take this beast for a test drive in a local three round tournament. Let’s dive right in and see how it went.
Round One vs Burn: Fight!
Game one, I win the die roll and immediately mulligan a no-land hand. When I draw my six, it has some gas including Ad Nauseam but no land. It does have a Gitaxian Probe and with a scry effect from the mulligan, I keep. I ship a non-land card to the bottom and cast Gitaxian Probe. My opponent has a hand of Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Price of Progress, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, and Monastery Swiftspear. I pass and over the next two turns, I get hit for six damage.
On my third turn I draw a Swamp, and it’s off to the races. Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Ad Nauseam, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion's Eye Diamond, Chrome Mox imprinting Duress, Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame into Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony. That was a turn three win draining the full twenty life.
My opponent went to mulligan town to find an answer on the play. He found it in the form of an Eidolon of the Great Revel which came down on his second turn. It's possible I should have been more aggressive with a mulligan to find something that could go off earlier. I'm not familiar enough with how well the deck mulligans.
We both keep our hands, and I led with an Underground Sea and passed. My opponent cracked an Arid Mesa on his turn and played a hasty Goblin Guide that immediately attacked and gave me a land to offset the two damage. I cast Brainstorm and cracked a Scalding Tarn after. Then Gitaxian Probe, Lion's Eye Diamond, Lion's Eye Diamond, Chrome Mox imprinting Infernal Tutor, Infernal Tutor cracking both Lion's Eye Diamond for red, and tutored Empty the Warrens to create sixteen goblins. Not a bad turn two. Two attack phases later, the goblins overran my opponent and that was the match.
Round Two vs Burn: Fight!
Another round against Storm hate! I was on the play again for this one, and led off by cracking Bloodstained Mire and Duress. Staring back at me were two copies of Eidolon of the Great Revel. Without the ability to combo off on my turn two, the Eidolons quickly made it too painful to storm out and I lost game one.
I started off by cracking a Bloodstained Mire for a Swamp and cast Cabal Therapy. I nabbed the lone copy of Eidolon of the Great Revel. My opponent's hand looked a little on the slow side, so I slowly crafted my hand over the next two turns. I reached critical mass and cast a Dark Ritual and Infernal Tutor for another Dark Ritual. I cast the other two copies of Dark Ritual, followed by Rite of Flame and then the final copy of Infernal Tutor. The card I choose? Past in Flames, with both a black mana and a red mana floating. With the ability to cast all of my spells from the graveyard again, my opponent conceded to the writing on the wall. Turn three win.
This game was far more interactive than the others. My opponent resolved an early Pyrostatic Pillar, so I just played lands for a few turns. On the other hand, he cast Rift Bolt, Lava Spike, Lightning Bolt, and a Goblin Guide. At seven life, I cast an Echoing Truth on his Pyrostatic Pillar on his end step, which dropped me to a precarious five life. I had a fetchland on the table but declined to use it. I begin my turn with a Brainstorm which found me a Cabal Therapy. I immediately fired it off. My opponent considered for a moment and then let it resolve. I snap called Fireblast as it was the only spell that mattered and hit! Seeing that the coast was clear, I cracked my fetchland so I'd have more mana to play with. I cast a Ponder, Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond, Rite of Flame, and an Infernal Tutor to find my Tendrils of Agony. Given that my opponent was at fourteen life, the eight Tendrils copies was enough to end it.
Round Three vs Jund: Fight!
This was the easy game. I was on the play and just played a Scalding Tarn. My opponent just played a Bloodstained Mire for his turn. The goblins appeared fast and furious on my second turn. I played Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, Gitaxian Probe, Ponder, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, and Empty the Warrens for sixteen goblins. Two attack steps through a Tarmogoyf later, my opponent conceded. He also proceeded to put all fifteen sideboard cards into his deck!
The beginning of the end. I began to see how fifteen sideboard cards can affect a game! I didn't have a particularly fast hand on the draw, but I had the nice combo of Gitaxian Probe and Cabal Therapy to strip whatever card I wanted from my opponent's hand. It was very lucky for me too, because I was able to nab none other than Eidolon of the Great Revel! Three straight matches against this card. Ugh! I did see that he also had a Wasteland and a Thoughtseize. This ended up costing me as I had to fetch a basic Swamp with two blue cards in hand. I ground to a halt and the combination of Deathrite Shaman, Thoughtseize and Tarmogoyf brought a swift end to the game.
While game two felt like I was a land away from competing, this game was a total whitewash. On the play, I mulled to six cards and was one mana shy of a turn one Ad Nauseam. Due to that, Thoughtseize hit me twice, Hymn to Tourach once, Surgical Extraction twice, and a Bloodbraid Elf that brought along an Eidolon of the Great Revel. There might have been a ham sandwich in there too, but it was such a beating that the trauma has been blocked from memory.
That was an interesting three rounds. I faced Eidolon of the Great Revel in every round and managed to best it in two of three matches. I had hoped to face more of a variety of decks, but sometimes you just get that. In terms of the deck speed, it didn't seem faster than other combo decks. I only managed to hit a turn two combo of goblins once, and that was enough to take that game. Based on the games I played, that hand would have won almost every game except where there was a turn two Eidolon. A bit more work on the sideboard plans will help in the future. Overall, it was a satisfying experience trying to find the routes to victory and I'll likely give it another shot!
Until next time, may all your Cabal Therapies hit the named card! (And not Go Fish!)