The Grapeshots of Wrath: A Legacy TES Report.
To the city of Ottawa and part of the old city of Orleans, the last storm spell came gently, and it did not drain life or produce goblins. The grapes shot and re-shot tiny creatures. The last grapes shot at players and scattered fallen opponents and hate cards along the sides of the tables so that the city of Ottawa and the city of Orleans began to disappear under the power of the storm.
The Epic Storm
Last time with The Epic Storm (TES), I wrote about the main win conditions with the deck and some of the important cards that can set up those win conditions. It’s time we talk about some of the less heralded cards that can get you out of a jam and even finish the game by themselves. These cards are once again in the sideboard, but are fully accessible because of Burning Wish. Having those options gives TES a toolbox feel, picking the right card for the situation, and it allows you to get out of situations that another combo deck might not be able to.
Meltdown is one of the most important cards in the board against artifacts. While there are a lot of playable options like Hurkyl’s Recall and the new By Force, there's only a limited amount of space in the sideboard. You need to maximize your slots and prioritize your options based on the perceived metagame.
My metagame includes red Stompy decks, Eldrazi, MUD, and Lands. All of those decks play a combination of Chalice of the Void, Thorn of Amethyst, Sphere of Resistance, and Trinisphere. Why not Hurkyl’s Recall? The answer is the addition of Blood Moon to some of those decks. Having blue mana could be problematic, but red mana will not. Then there's the fact that Meltdown can wipe all artifacts up in one shot. If it catches a Phyrexian Revoker, Arcbound Ravager, or Walking Ballista at the same time, all the better!
Massacre deals with white creatures. I’ve always scoffed at White Weenie in all its forms across every format in Magic, but in Legacy, Death and Taxes has proven to be a most worthy opponent. It reminds me of Mishra’s Workshop decks in Vintage – you just need one more turn to cast that spell and then, before you know it, the game is over and you never had a chance.
Well, it’s the same thing in Legacy. The combination of mana disruption through Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Phyrexian Revoker just shuts down some games before you even get started. Being able to cast a potentially free spell to rid yourself of the opponent’s disruptive creatures and add to your Storm count is a fantastic return.
Telemin Performance is a serious threat to win the game... against a handful of decks. It's one of the alternate win conditions in the sideboard against such decks as ANT, TES, and Lands. What do these decks have in common? They don't run creatures! Consider that if you resolve this spell against one of these decks, you'll mill their entire deck and pass the turn. They lose in their draw step to being unable to draw a card. Excellent return!
It even has utility against Sneak and Show. Both Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand are the giant terrifying threats out of Sneak and Show and usually win the game after one or two attack phases. Being able to steal one of their own fatties from their deck and finish them with it is magically delicious! You might say this card could be your Lucky Charm!
Finally, we come to the source of inspiration for the parody of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Grapeshot is another Storm card! The rate of return is a lot less than the other Storm spells, but it can be very useful to clear out some problem creatures. It even has the benefit of being able to target opponents as well, so you can finish off some opponents if their life total is a bit low. It also has the benefit of costing just two mana to cast. In some cases, you'll find that you aren't able to generate as much mana as you'd like, so Grapeshot can be a good option to manage or end a game.
With the hope that I would get a chance to face some of the decks I mentioned above (Death and Taxes, Storm, Lands, or Sneak and Show), I ventured out to a local four round event. Let's see if there were opportunities to use some of these sweet sideboard cards!
Round One vs Landstill: Fight!
Winning the dice roll has been huge with this deck. We both kept our seven and it was off to the races! I start with a Gitaxian Probe and see that I'm facing Landstill with no Force of Will in his opener. Given the nature of Landstill, I feel like a small amount of pressure will likely win the game, and his hand contained zero gas. I follow up with a Badlands, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, and an Empty the Warrens for eight goblins. After one attack step, and seeing his drawn card for the turn, my opponent conceded. Turn one combo.
Sideboarding: -4 Ponder, +2 Defense Grid, +2 Echoing Truth
A double mulligan on the play for my opponent did not bode well for the game. My hand was serviceable, but a bit slower. I proceeded to make land drops and use cantrips to sculpt my hand. My opponent also hit all his land drops as well. On turn four, I went for it. A Cabal Therapy led the way on Force of Will, but it whiffed. It did show a Fact or Fiction though. Then Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox imprinting Echoing Truth, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame and finally, the last card in hand, Infernal Tutor. The response was Fact or Fiction. We watched each card slowly revealed to see if I was to be doomed by a Force of Will. The answer was no, and my opponent scooped it up.
Round Two vs Bogles: Fight!
The dice loved me again, and my opponent took a mulligan to boot. My hand's a little risky, but sometimes you just have to go for it.
I start with Swamp, followed by Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond, Rite of Flame, Infernal Tutor cracking the LED in response, and searching up an Empty the Warrens for ten goblins. My life immediately got exciting on my opponent's turn when he cast Land Grant to reveal cards like Monastery Swiftspear, Berserk and Rancor. As my opponent said, the games were going to end quickly regardless! I had an attack for ten, then the following attack was for six to hold some blockers back in case of blow out. He was able to send an eighteen power trampling monster on his turn, and had he drawn a second Berserk, that would have been lethal. Whew!
Sideboarding: -3 Ponder, +3 Echoing Truth
Being on the draw, I saw an Echoing Truth in my opener, so I kept and was able to spend some time disrupting my opponent. I nabbed an Invigorate with a Duress and we went three turns before he found a Monastery Swiftspear to start the attacks. He tried to build his Tron monster with Assault Strobe, and triple Mutagenic Growth, but it was answered by the Echoing Truth. While I knew he had a Red Elemental Blast in hand, he didn't have the mana to cast it. It was an elementary Storm chain from there to wish for the Tendrils of Agony to finish him off from thirteen.
Round Three vs Food Chain: Fight!
The dice rolls loved me yet again, but we both mulliganed to six. It was a tougher hand that was a bit slower, and my opponent didn't get any other pressure on board besides an early Baleful Strix. After building up my hand a bit, I attempted to combo off. I got hit with a Force of Will in the middle of trying to build up mana, but I still had just enough to try for an Ad Nauseam as my last card. Boom! Second Force of Will! He pitched a Misthollow Griffin to one of the Forces, and although both of our hands were wiped out, the Griffin came back from exile to launch the beat down from the skies.
Sideboarding: -3 Ponder, +1 Tendrils of Agony, +2 Echoing Truth
Starting on the play, I had a Duress that stripped a Food Chain. I also had a Cabal Therapy followup but I held it to see if I could build a hand that could go off. Instead, I kept drawing lands and tutors. Without any rituals or fast mana, it gave my opponent time to land a Baleful Strix again and dig deeper.
I eventually fired off my discard spell and saw that the coast was clear. Still, I needed to wait another turn due to having zero fast mana, and the black mana I used for the discard spell was required. Meanwhile, my opponent landed a Food Chain but didn't combo off. With that pressure, and knowing he had a Misthollow Griffin in hand, I tried to combo out. Well, during that draw step in between, he had drawn a Mindbreak Trap. After passing the turn back, he played the griffin and followed up his infinite mana with an arbitrarily large Walking Ballista. Game, set, match!
Round Four vs Dark Bant: Fight!
He rolled a three, and I came up snake eyes! Oh crap(s)! I don't know if you can tell, but there's a little foreshadowing going on.
My opponent landed a turn two Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Not normally a big deal as goblins don't need to target, but I had a Gitaxian Probe and promptly drew a Brainstorm, because that's what happens. It was a little unfortunate, but I managed to drop out fourteen goblins the next turn. The Brainstorm proved useful as an imprint for Chrome Mox. A Stoneforge Mystic joined the party with Batterskull and, between the two, there were just enough blockers and lifelink to survive the goblin onslaught. I did try to sneak through a small Tendrils of Agony but given two draw steps, one turned out to be a Force of Will. Moral of the story, it sucks not finding discard spells!
Sideboarding: -4 Ponder, +1 Past in Flames, +1 Tendrils of Agony, +2 Defense Grid
Being on the play, I decided to hit my land drops and build for a crucial turn. On the fourth turn, I cast a Dark Ritual and attempted to cast Ad Nauseam. It met a Flusterstorm. The following turn, I try a Rite of Flame into Burning Wish. That gets shot down with a Hydroblast. All the time, I'm playing around a possible Mindbreak Trap and these other spells are just getting me.
Tired of the shenanigans, I manage to go off with Past in Flames and re-cast Ad Nauseam. With more than lethal storm, I just need to hit one of three Chrome Moxes or one of four Lotus Petals to get started. It goes somewhat horribly bad by revealing Tendrils of Agony and Empty the Warrens. Starting from seventeen life, this should be academic but I swiftly meet my end in eight cards. Just a rough ending!
There were a couple of matches where the cards really didn't line up well. A single discard spell mixed in, instead of multiple tutors, would have been enough to change the outcome at least once, if not twice. The one time that I was going to use Burning Wish to get Meltdown, I was forced to get Empty the Warrens instead. I didn't face the matchups where some of these sweet sideboard cards could come into play. I was really looking for opportunities to do so, but most of the time, I felt really constrained by mana and it limited my lines of play.
Overall, while TES might have good matchups against several of the Storm hate cards, I didn't face them. In almost every situation I faced, ANT would have gotten the win much easier. That's just an observation on a limited set of data. It's not a definitive statement on which Storm deck is better. I believe that they have situational advantages against different decks and I haven't been able to test that theory out yet. So, whichever deck you choose, enjoy the power of these amazing combo decks and crush with them.
Until next time, may all your Cabal Therapies hit the named card! (And not Go Fish!)