This, more so than any series I’ve written so far, was the hardest for me to cover. Storm is a deck I’ve played before. It’s an exceptionally powerful deck in Modern. It used to have access to cards like Seething Song back when I started playing Modern, and when I played the deck last, Pyromancer’s Ascension was all the rage. The challenge for me was one card, and one card alone: Gifts Ungiven.
What Made Storm Tier 1?
When analyzing a metagame, I try to understand why things have changed. If you are mindlessly wading through the muck that is the complicated movements of the environment, you’re going to be overwhelmed. So I first try to understand why Storm became so good.
The first major reason was Aether Revolt’s Baral, Chief of Compliance. Baral is the second copy of Goblin Electromancer (and now, the default “better” Electromancer) in the deck, and the counter clause on it is a lot more relevant than you might expect, moving the deck to have a little bit of interaction in the form of Remand. This allows Storm to fight with 1 mana to protect their spells, protect their creatures, and Baral rewards you with a loot. One of the ways that Storm would fizzle was that they would draw 2-3 lands down the stretch. This loot allows you to go an additional card deeper and mitigate those losses. The major ability is the mana reduction, which allows you to play extra cards with generic mana costs.
This leads people to put Gifts Ungiven into the deck as a 4-of. This card saw no Storm play before Baral, to my knowledge. How many Gifts Ungiven would you play if it cost 2U? The answer is somewhere around 9, I’d bet, as once this card resolves you generally win the game. This card is really complicated to play in those spots where the choices aren’t automatic. Here’s some tricks I’ve learned:
- If you have an Electromancer or Baral on the battlefield and 3 lands, a pile of Manamorphose, 2x Rituals, and Past in Flames is almost always a kill.
- If you want a Ritual effect because you have Past in Flames in hand, the best pile is: 2x Ritual, Manamorphose, and Noxious Revival.
- If you’re concerned about a Surgical Extraction after sideboard, a safe pile if you have enough resources to win the game is: Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens, Noxious Revival, X (X is usually Past in Flames—this is used in late-game scenarios).
- If you need to draw cards against a deck that has torn apart your hand: Gifts Ungiven, Past in Flames, Pieces of the Puzzle, Manamorphose.
I spent a lot of games losing, learning these Gifts piles on the fly, but these are the shortcuts I’ve learned after a few Leagues and playing matches all night! Gifts Ungiven allows Storm to play a flash-style plan, and really punishes people that want to tap out against you. I think this, in combination from the extra mana acceleration from Baral, is why you’re seeing Storm at the top of the standings in a number of Modern tournaments, as well as crushing the MTGO Leagues.
Before I go too much further, here’s the 75 I’ll be playing with:
The only “oddball” that I have in my main deck relative to other people is a single copy of Echoing Truth. Truth is there to protect myself from opposing hate cards. Examples of this you’ll see are Leyline of Sanctity, a card I played against in 3 rounds last week with the 8-Rack deck, Eidolon of Rhetoric or Eidolon of the Great Revel, and Chalice of the Void. While these cards don’t make it so you literally cannot win the game (except Eidolon of Rhetoric), they all make it incredibly difficult. With a deck like Storm, you have such a strong ability to manipulate your library, to dig through your deck, see tons of cards, and find those silver bullet cards to answer your opponent’s hate pieces. I really hate playing decks that fold to random cards, and if I have the ability to fight and power through those decks, I’m going to take that opportunity.
The sideboard is one of my favorite in Modern. Rather than a pile of broad answers, because you’re among the fastest combo decks, it’s more a question of, “what are the best hate cards against me, and how do I most effectively fight them?” You can act this way because you’re the fastest kid and most consistent deck on the block (the Vengevine deck is faster, but much less consistent at setting up turn-4 kills from my experience against it). This allows you to play hyper efficient cards like Lightning Bolt, Dispel, and Dismember, and haymaker cards like Blood Moon and Shattering Spree. This is the de facto “best” sideboard you can be building in Modern, but I’d argue that it’s not correct for most decks, as the majority of decks fall somewhere in the range of a slower fair deck. These decks need more broad interaction to fight against an array of strategies. With Storm, you only need to fight specific cards (graveyard hate: Leyline of the Void/Rest in Peace, discard: Thoughtseize/Liliana of the Veil, and counterspells: Mana Leak/Remand/Stubborn Denial).
We’ll see later on this week if I make a fool of myself! I expect tons of comments this week with players telling me what I’ve messed up, missed lethal on, etc. Storm is a really tough deck to play. I find playing against it much easier, as you’re mostly sitting there as they’re one turn from going off, or they’re killing you quite quickly. Thus, I expect some sweet games and maybe some silly mess ups, but I hope you enjoy them! Follow me on Twitter @Corey_Burkhart where I’ll be doing one more poll next week to record one more Modern series (after playing Faeries next week)!