Every time spoiler season rolls around I huddle close to my computer screen in anticipation of new goodies. I was walking back from class one October day about a year ago when I got a text asking if I had seen Past in Flames. When I got to my computer and saw the card, I was blown away. That card was basically Yawgmoth”s Will in the correct deck. Me and Yawgmoth”s Will have a little history.
See, when I first started playing Magic one of the things I was initially interested in was the answer to the following question: “What is the best card in Magic?” I was so interested that I Googled the question and found Yawgmoth”s Will. I was confused. The card seemed mediocre at best. How could that card possibly be better than Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker? After seeing a Vintage deck win on turn 1, I saw why it had the coveted name of “best card ever.” When Past in Flames was spoiled, I told myself I would play whatever Legacy deck could let me play the best card ever. After some searching, I found a list. After many more months of testing and acquiring cards, I arrived at this list:
The Epic Storm
This deck is Bryant Cook’s The Epic Storm. It is worth noting that this list is a little dated by his standards, but I am more familiar with this one so I play it currently. That said, I cannot begin to take credit for this deck. It is simply brilliant in its construction. The deck is much harder to play than any deck I have ever played and I seem to learn something new every time I play the deck. This deck ignores card advantage to a certain degree; your opponent can blow out your hand with Hymn to Tourach and Thoughtseize and you simply Burning Wish to get Past in Flames and win anyways. There is an out to almost any possible game state. It takes some practice but counterspells can’t slow you down if you are doing it right.
My favorite game was the game where I played turn 1 Duress and saw 3 Force of Will, Spell Pierce, Counterspell, Entreat the Angels and a Land. He played Counterbalance turn 3 and I won very easily. I have beaten Stifle on the Storm trigger for Tendrils of Agony and used the Storm he gave me to win with Burning Wish into a second Tendrils of Agony. I would say this deck loses mostly to its own mulligans.
The Rite Moves
- Lotus petal, Gemstone Mine, Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Ad Nauseam, Orim”s Chant, Brainstorm
- Scalding Tarn, City of Brass, Lion”s Eye Diamond, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish, Chrome Mox
In the first case I would wait a turn to see what they are playing before “going for it.” You can have Brainstorm in response if they play Thoughtseize to hide cards and you can find another mana source with Brainstorm to play Orim”s Chant shutting off counterspells before winning with Ad Nauseam. In the second case, you play a land, Imprint Burning Wish on Chrome Mox, play Dark Ritual, play Lion”s Eye Diamond, cast Infernal Tutor holding priority, activate Lion”s Eye Diamond making black mana and find and cast Ad Nauseam.
Ad Nauseam is occasionally a very bad play because you are very low on life, because you have been exhausting your opponent’s disruption or your opponent is playing a hyper-aggressive deck like Affinity and hit you for 10 on turn 2. This is where Burning Wish shines. Burning Wish can get a variety of substitute storm engines. Ad Nauseam can randomly kill its pilot occasionally, and you can guarantee a win with Burning Wish and enough mana. For example, you have 2 lands in play and the following in hand:
In this case, you cast Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Infernal Tutor revealing Lion”s Eye Diamond, cast both, Burning Wish for Ill-Gotten Gains activating both Lion”s Eye Diamond in response, cast Ill-Gotten Gains and get 2 Lion”s Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor. Then cast both Lion”s Eye Diamond, cast Infernal Tutor with the 3 mana left, and in response use both Lion”s Eye Diamond to make black. Then get Tendrils of Agony.
Past in Flames is helpful against people who want you to have no cards in hand. I usually Wish for Past in Flames ASAP and play all my artifact mana, letting them Hymn me as much as they like before winning out of my graveyard. This is assuming you are not winning on turn 1 or can make an huge amount of Goblins easily.
Past in Flames is useful in three cases:
- You have a large number of rituals and a Tendrils of Agony, Burning Wish or Infernal Tutor in hand.
- You get choked on black mana and need it to flashback a Dark Ritual for double black mana for Tendrils of Agony.
- Your Ad Nauseam unexpectedly fizzles because you somehow didn’t draw a Lotus petal or Chrome Mox and already played a land that turn. In this case, you discard at the end of turn and win when Past in Flames lets you essentially draw your graveyard.
Empty the Warrens is useful in two cases:
- Getting around Ivory Mask effects (Witchbane Orb, Leyline of Sanctity, etc.).
- Winning against decks trying to lock down your mana, like RUG Delver or Rock variants. Those decks usually fold to 8 1/1 Goblins attacking every turn.
Diminishing Returns is a card you probably have to read a few times. I use it in 3 ways. First, against Dredge you can reset them while keeping them under Silence effects until you win. I also use it to correct bad mulligans and hands that are lacking. Brainstorm seeing triple Chrome Mox comes to mind. The third way is to use it as a substitute Storm engine. Any discussion of Diminishing Returns requires the floating mana win condition chart:
This chart assumes Storm is 4, you have not played a land yet, you Burning Wish to get Diminishing Returns and your opponent is at 20 life. Many people have asked me why I don’t play something like Time Spiral or Reforge the Soul. Let’s look at the following example:
My opponent makes 22 Goblin tokens on turn 1. My hand is Land, Rite of Flame, Lion”s Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, Lotus Petal, Ponder, and Silence. I can play land, Rite of Flame, Lion”s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Burning Wish, use Lion”s Eye to make blue and get Diminishing Returns. I can then luck sac into a hand like Chrome Mox, Duress, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Ad Nauseam and possibly win.
If that card had been a Reforge the Soul the probability of winning is nearly zero (Ponder has to find Lion”s Eye Diamond). I have not done the exact math so it is possible that getting a Lion”s Eye Diamond is more likely than the above scenario, but I suspect it is not and won’t change until someone shows me otherwise. It is possible that I win more often with Reforge the Soul because it is more useful in more cases than Diminishing Returns, but as I see it I want to be using them in the same manner. It is worth noting that Reforge the Soul goes great with Rite of Flame, but it being one more mana than Diminishing Returns means I need to have played at least one Rite of Flame and then get another Rite of Flame to make it worth it. This seems on average to be less mana efficient than just having Diminishing Returns cost 1 less.
Ill-gotten Gains is used as a foolproof win against non-blue decks by using what is known as the “Ill-gotten Gains loop.” You make enough mana to have 2 mana floating after Ill-gotten Gains with Infernal Tutor and a way to make 4 mana in the graveyard–usually a Dark Ritual and a Lion”s Eye Diamond. I have also used it as a bad Mind Rot once or twice.
Grapeshot is there to kill hate bears and kill your opponents with style by acquiring 20 Storm instead of 10.
Chain of Vapor is for decks wanting to sideboard hate bears like Gaddock Teeg. Duress is a terrible card if your opponent has only creatures. Reanimator is popular in my meta so I use it to bounce Iona, Shield of Emeria all the time. If you don’t have any Reanimator, I would run 3 Abrupt Decay.
I sideboard in Inquisition of Kozilek against Maverick. I also sideboard it against decks that can race me while holding Spell Pierce, such as Show and Tell. I usually only sideboard in one Inquisition of Kozilek against combo because I want to maintain the decks combo-tastic integrity.
Karakas is almost entirely for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Gaddock Teeg. I tried a lot of different things and Karakas online casino ended up being the most consistent. Not only is the extra land useful against Wasteland, but it is the only answer that can happen after Ad Nauseam. In testing, I could occasionally resolve Ad Nauseam through Thalia, Guardian of Thraben only to find my bounce spell cost 2 mana. I tried Infest, but I found I either needed to Burning Wish for it and wait a turn to play it, in which case my opponent could hold his or her second hate bear (Ethersworn Canonist, Gaddock Teeg, a second Thalia, Guardian of Thraben) and play it after the fact, or worse I would need to use Lion”s Eye Diamond to cast it and blow out my hand, letting them ride a single creature to victory.
Shattering Spree is for the Ethersworn Canonist you didn’t see coming and for Stax. Interestingly, I have never won a match against Affinity were I Spreed, so I am not sure it’s as good as people want it to be there.
Here”s my usual approach:
Maverick, Junk, Dead Guy
Show and Tell
Playing Against Blue Decks
The usual play is to go for it turn 1 on the play if you have it. You might be asking yourself “Why are you not playing Belcher then? That deck does that all the time.” The answer is three-fold:
- The deck does not do that all the time. If the blue player goes first and has any cantrip, suddenly the Belcher player is in a bad position, assuming the blue player can kill him within 7 or so turns.
- Aggro players can’t sideboard Mindbreak Trap and expect an automatic concession from you.
- Control players who read the match up wrong can just lose from putting you on a different deck. The last event I was at, I fetched a Volcanic Island and Pondered. He destroyed my Volcanic Island with a Wasteland. I won on the next turn. He was holding Daze and Spell Pierce but thought I was playing Delver.
The Epic Storm at St. Louis
I managed to squeak into top 64 (63!) with this deck at the St. Louis Open. The Flusterstorm was a last minute addition because in testing, I went 1-10 against Show and Tell w/ Omniscience. I cut an Inquisition of Kozilek to make room.
Round 1 – Jeff Cosgrove on Junk
We knew what we were playing since we play at the local shop. He was clearly not pleased. He played Inquisition of Kozilek, seeing a hand of Rite of Flame, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish and lands. He took Infernal Tutor. I drew Dark Ritual, he played Dark Confidant, I drew Ad Nauseam. I resolved Ad Nauseam and my first flip was Ad Nauseam… followed by 3 Lion”s Eye Diamond, lands, 3 Lotus Petal, 2 Rite of Flame, and a Tendrils of Agony.
I sided out 2 Chain of Vapor, 1 Thoughtseize, 1 Inquisition of Kozilek, 1 Abrupt Decay, 2 Karakas. I sided out all the Duress and all the Silence effects, save 1 Orim”s Chant. He played turn 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. At the end of turn, I cast Brainstorm. On my turn, I played my Karakas, bounced the Thalia and on his turn, kicked Orim”s Chant. He used Knight of the Reliquary to fetch Karakas and passed. I played double Lion”s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam and won.
Round 2 – Burn
I kept a hand that was one mana from winning. He played a Lava Spike. I failed to find land for 2-3 turns. He played Keldon Marauders and I went to 14. I found the land and cast Ad Nauseam, went to 6 life and won. He had 14 damage sitting in his hand next turn.
He sideboarded exactly 4 cards so I put him on Mindbreak Trap. My opening hand had the kill in hand with a Silence. He had mulliganed to 5 so I assumed he found his Mindbreak Trap. He did his standard burn thing and I waited around trying to get another land. Finally, at 10 I decided to go for it. I played Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, 3 Lion”s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor for Burning Wish, Wished for Ill-Gotten Gains and won. He sided Smash to Smithereens against me.
Round 3 – RUG Delver (the eventual winner)
He played a Tropical Island and Pondered. I played a Ponder from a Volcanic Island. He tapped out for Sylvan Library. I fetched to avoid Stifle and got Underground Sea. He played Tarmogoyf and passed the turn. I cast Burning Wish and he countered it with Force of Will. He played Tarmogoyf #2. I was dead on board 3 turns later and drew Flooded Strand.I fetched at the end of his turn and he Stifled my land. I drew and played Chrome Mox, he Stifled the trigger. I played Lion”s Eye Diamond and he countered it with Daze. I played Lion”s Eye Diamond, he Dazed again, I paid for it. I played Chrome Mox into Dark Ritual and he Dazed the Dark Ritual. At this point, I had only 3 mana after Infernal. I Tutored using Lion”s Eye Diamond in response and told him I was getting Tendrils of Agony, Storm was a million. He asked how much mana I had floating, I told him 3 and we went to game 2.
Game 2, I cast Duress turn 1 and his hand was Nimble Mongoose, Ponder, land, Force of Will, Daze, Spell Pierce. I took Force of Will and he Pondered. My hand was a win for sure, and one Daze was fine. Spell pierce was not. I Pondered and was all set to win when he destroyed my land with Wasteland. I waited around, missing on land. At some point later, I played Chrome Mox and Imprinted Infernal Tutor with another in hand. I realized I was on a 2 turn clock and Lotus Petal needed to resolve. I said “Petal, you can go” and he didn’t counter it.
It is important to note that many players overvalue counterspells in the turn you try to go off. If he had countered my Lotus Petal I was dead to rites. By playing Lotus Petal and telling him he could go, i.e. I am not comboing off, he let it resolve where he probably should not have. Next turn, he attacked me to 5 with 2 Thresholded [ed: Thresheld?] Nimble Mongoose. I played Orim”s Chant which he Dazed. I played Dark Ritual in resposce, he played Brainstorm in response and Dazed the Chant again. He now had no land open. Just to clarify, Spell Pierce on the Dark Ritual won here. I played a land and Chrome Mox. He Dazed it and I was one short again.
Round 4 – Chris Andersen with Enchantress
He won the roll and Utopia Sprawled a Forest. I played Gemstone Mine and passed. He played Utopia Sprawl, Cloud of Faeries and played Green Sun”s Zenith to get Argothian Enchantress. I played a land and Pondered. On his turn, I Silenced him. My hand was top-heavy. I could make mana fine, but Hellbent was an issue with double Wish in hand. I Wished for Ill-Gotten Gains, played Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Ill-Gotten Gains and discarded, returning Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor. This meant I could win next turn assuming the card I drew has not a Silence or Burning Wish. In retrospect, I should have just Wished and passed. I did not expect what happened next. On his turn he “went off” using Words of Wind to bounce both my lands, shutting me off from ever getting Hellbent. Eventually, he made infinite mana and cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
Game 2, I sided in Flusterstorm and 2 Karakas. I knew he was bringing in Gaddock Teeg from the board and would have Mindbreak Trap. Hitting Green Sun”s Zenith with Flusterstorm also seemed like a plus. I opened a hand with both Karakas and Flusterstorm. I mulliganed into the same. I had a miserable hand otherwise. I had 3 straight turns of lands and all was good when he “went off” with Words of Wind on my lands. He played Gaddock Teeg. At this point, I was still fine if I drew a Dark Ritual or Lion”s Eye Diamond, but that never happened and he killed me with dudes.
Round 5 – Eureka Show and Tell
He led with a Havenwood Battleground. I was confused by this crappy land. I had to read it 12 times. What kind of deck plays this? I played Volcanic Island and Pondered. He played Lotus Petal on his turn and passed. I played a Flooded Strand and fetched an Underground Sea. The look on his face was awesome. He was suddenly extremely confused as to what I was playing. I played Lotus Petal and cast Silence. I played Chrome Mox imprinting Burning Wish, Lion”s Eye Diamond, Lion”s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam. From there, I Dark Ritualed, Imprinted Burning Wish on Chrome Mox, played triple Rite of Flame, casting Burning Wish into Thoughtseize and saw a hand of Eureka and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He was also very confused as to why I did that commenting, “It”s not like I can do anything. You Silenced me.” I played Lion”s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor, Tendrils of Agony.
Game 2, he had all lands and I was all action but not enough mana. My Brainstorm had bricked and he Eureka”d a Jace into play and started Brainstorming. Eventually, he Show and Telled Omniscience and showed me Burning Wish, Petals of Insight and Grapeshot.
Game 3, my hand had Tendrils, Tutor, Wish, Chrome Mox, land, land, and Ponder. I Pondered and shuffled, drawing Dark Ritual. He played Havenwood Battleground. I drew Orim”s Chant and Wished for Diminishing Returns. He played Sylvan Library turn 2. I drew Chrome Mox. He took 8 off Sylvan Library and Show and Telled Griselbrand to my land.I played Orim”s Chant, he paid drew 7 cards. going to 6, and Forced, putting him at 5. I played Chrome Mox on Diminishing Returns, then Ritual and Tendrils for 8.
Round 6 – Matt Hoey on Esper Stoneblade
He won the roll and played Inquisition of Kozilek, taking my Infernal Tutor. I Duressed him and saw triple Snapcaster Mage, Umezawa”s Jitte, land, Brainstorm. I took Brainstorm. He played Stoneforge Mystic and got Sword of Feast and Famine. I started drawing a lot of lands. He Flashbacked Inquisition of Kozilek and took Silence. He won shortly after. Game 2, he plays Inquisition of Kozilek, taking my Burning Wish. See game 1 for the rest. He forced my Ponder, which was back-breaking.
Round 7 – Dre with BUG Delver
He played Inquisition of Kozilek taking my Infernal Tutor. I Pondered to get another one and he played double Delver. I went for it next turn (breaking my own rule) and he was holding double Goyf, double Wasteland.
Game 2, after many turns of back and forth I exhausted all his Forces and Dazes. He had Extirpated my Ponder and I was at 6, staring down a flipped Delver and a Threshholded Mongoose. I carefully considered my possibilities and realized after hard fought work getting rid of his disruption, I did not want to play Diminishing Returns. Empty the Warrens wouldn’t win because he could attack first. Ill-gotten Gains would kill me. I was one mana from being able to win with Tutor into Tendrils from Past in Flames. It took me a while, but I decided on a highly risky play. I Wished for Past in Flames and played it, flashing back two Rituals. I flashbacked Tutor to get Lion”s Eye Diamond and made blue. I flashed backed Brainstorm see a fetchland and 2 cards that were not Tendrils. I played the land and fetched. I flashbacked the other Brainstorm seeing double Chant and a Mox.
Game 3 was the same. By the time I had wormed my way though his disruption, I was at 6. He had Goyf and Insectile Aberration on his side of the field. My hand was Tendrils, double Ritual, Rite of Flame, Chrome Mox. I cast all the Rituals and Ad Nauseam. I was remarkably one Lotus Petal/Mox/Ritual/Rite away from winning when I flipped Burning Wish for my demise.
Round 8 – Hypergenesis
I ended up at 63rd, which was good enough for a Force of Will to go towards the High Tide deck I am working on. I think the take away from this event is that Blue/Black decks with a fast clock are very hard to beat with combo decks. Also, the deck is awesome. How many decks can beat Griselbrand in play through a Force of Will?
Hope to see you Stormin”,
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