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Into the Eye: A Modern Storm Primer

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

My name is Mathew Robinson and I am a Johnny.

That is not to say that my first concern is not winning games of Magic. I do not play my “super meta breaking Maze’s End rogue deck” and blame all my losses on bad luck. It means that I prefer jamming a brew over the Caw-Blade of a format but with the caveat that if I can not make it competitive, I will audible to just playing the Caw-Blade of the format.

This inclination leads me to eternal formats with lots of “Deck Design” space. As such, Modern has been my current addiction.

Before I start talking about the deck you should ask yourself, “am I a combo player?” If you answered yes, some people will look at you like you are the scum of the earth. Others will bask in your glory as you proceed to put together a ten minute turn by perfectly crafting the right sequence of cards to deal exact-sies to your opponent. Now if you are sitting at your computer saying to yourself, “you know what, I AM a combo player and that’s OK!” or, “I AM a scumbag and I DO want to deal exact-sies to my opponents,” then read on fearless Johnny combo player!

For those of you who are still with me, lets start by taking a look at the top two combo decks of the format.

Splinter Twin Combo

Ah Splinter Twin, the classic two card combo deck. If I draw these specific two cards, and if you have no way to interact, then I guess I win!

I have never been a fan of two card combos particularly because they have a hard time of dealing with hate. Some people will try to cover up this weakness with redundancy (you can run eight Deceiver Exarchs!). However, the biggest issue with Splinter Twin is twofold:

First, you are using a creature based combo in a format that is all about creature removal. This may sound obvious but Modern is all about powerful creatures: Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, and Knight of the Reliquary just to name a few. What do these creatures all have in common? Well everything that kills them incidentally kills Deciever Exarch, meaning that everyone (who comes prepared for the format) has some form of main deck hate for your combo.

Second, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is not the same thing as Splinter Twins five through eight. Costing triple red is a huge deal when you do not want to take approximately 15 points of damage from your lands. Also, five mana is not just four mana plus one. You are looking at a huge difference in terms of a clock because you have to assemble an extra two or more mana to be able to protect your combo. If your opponent never taps out, you are looking at not being able to combo off until you have six to eight lands in play- a HUGE number in a fast format like Modern. This also means that your Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite has to sit in play for around three turns without getting touched, an unlikely scenario.

Storm

With the less than glowing review I gave of Splinter Twin, it would stand to reason that we are left playing Storm. Storm has some pros and some cons we should address before start talking about the list.

First and foremost, Storm has no interaction. This is a pro and a con at the same time meaning that your games will come down to whether or not can you go off before your opponent can kill you because you can not stop them. The upside to this is that since your playing a deck that is so singular in mind it is REALLY good at doing what it does.

The other problem with the deck is that we are really weak to graveyard hate. While we do not rely entirely on our graveyard like Living End does, it certainly shaves about two to five turns off of our clock. Your vulnerability or resiliency to graveyard hate will come down to your side boarding decisions and we will talk about how to deal with it when we cover our sideboarding and how we pretend to do this thing people call “interaction.”

Optimizing the Deck

When I put together the first draft of my Storm list, it included all star cards such as Desperate Ravings and Increasing Vengeance. While I enjoyed getting to play with these sweet cards a few things were readily apparent after testing.

Increasing Vengeance was more often than not bad. When you got to cast it and then flash it back with Past in Flames it was AMAZING, but about 85% of the time it was just a card that required you to go all in sooner than you could afford to. As such, it was rarely rewarding you for doing so.

Peer Through Depths on occasion did a great Demonic Tutor impression but the biggest problem with this deck is that it is a U/R Storm deck and not a R splashing U Storm deck. You run out of blue mana VERY quickly and often find yourself fizzling out staring at a massive amount of red mana.

Desperate Ravings hurt you more often than it helped you. I do not like random effects because I am a control freak. Beyond that you needed to filter out lands while essentially turning them into gas. Desperate Ravings was more likely to hit a spell in your hand than a land in most cases.

Also, only running 16 lands was rough. Hitting land drops is more important here than in a legacy storm deck. That being said, you keep a fair amount of sweet one landers. Also, having a Cascade Bluffs in your opener meant that you had to mulligan as it does nothing as your only land. Also, Cascade Bluffs does not do much as you are almost always fetching blue sources and you only need one red source to get your combo started.

Taking all of this into account, here is my current Storm list that I will be running until something better comes along or gets unbanned- here’s hoping for preordain!

The Cutting Room

Let’s go over some of the harder to understand card choices and how they made the final cut.

Faithless Looting over Desperate Ravings:

I have already mentioned how much I like choices, and Faithless Looting gives you plenty. Faithless Looting also gives you card filtering which is often more important than just cycling like Ravings does. I understand that a flashed back Ravings is a lot better than a flashed back Looting. When I am going off, or getting ready to, I need to turn lands into spells and Looting does that. Ravings simply does not.

+2 Land, -2 Increasing Vengeance

I played around with Increasing Vengeance because I got to live the dream with it once, and it felt like I was the best Magic player in the history of the world: Active Ascension, Manamorphose, flashback Vengeance targetting Manamorphose. Draw five cards, make ten mana!

Regardless of this sequence, I forced myself to take a step back. I counted how many times I drew Vengeance when I needed it to be anything else and the results were pretty clear. Vengeance had to go.

Empty The Warrens over Peer Through Depths

Sometimes you just need to find a storm card and the Grapeshots are all on vacation. Other times, like in the B/G Rock matchup, you are forced to go off earlier than you feel comfortable with and Empty the Warrens lets you get away with that. This means you do not auto lose game one to Thoughtseize decks.

Tips and Tricks

I was going to write a matchup section here but your matchups all play relatively the same. I will say the way to win with this deck is to know it inside and out. You can not play test enough with this deck. However, I will tell you the matchups to focus on are RDW, BG Rock, and UR Splintertwin (the version that plays Boomerangs). Those are you hardest matchups and you should be familiar with them.

With that said, I understand that a lot of people do not have as much time to play test as they would like but would still like to jam this deck at their next modern event. As such, I have compiled a small list of tips and tricks that will help you look like a pro Storm player right out of the gate. Again, do not take these as a suitable replacement for real testing, this is just a “Quick-Start Guide” of sorts.

Always play Pyromancer’s Ascension first if you have it and Electromancer in hand. Ascension is harder to interact with for your opponent and you can sometimes win outright on turn three if you have three lands and Electromancer.

Rituals are instants and should be played as such. Electromancer makes Pyretic Ritual do a pretty sweet Dark Ritual impression. If you have three lands and you cast Electromancer on turn three, you can sometimes go off right away. The real trick here is to cast Electromancer first. If they go to kill him with whatever removal they have slam all your rituals in response. That is the point of them being instants! You can get an obscene amount of mana at instant speed even if they have the removal. I almost never count on being able to untap with Electromancer.

If you have Sleight of Hand, Faithless Looting, and Serum visions in your opening hand the order of casting importance goes: Serum Visions, Faithless Looting, Sleight of Hand. Serum Visions sets up your next two natural draw steps so it should be cast first. Faithless Looting is good for finding a specific card and it is good at making your hand better through filtering. Sleight of Hand is really only good if you are looking for a specific card.

You always want one of your one mana draw spells in your opener and the land to cast whichever one.

You only need one red producing land to go off. Blue mana is a precious resource to be used wisely. Keep this in mind when sequencing your lands and how you are tapping your lands.

You always need at least one Manamorphose to go off with Past in Flames. The only exceptions are when you have a hand of all rituals, or rituals and an active Ascension with the Grapeshot in hand.

Echoing Truth beats Rest In Peace. You can bounce their Rest in Peace on their end step then go off by only using Past in Flames on whatever you cast that turn.

Lightning Bolt and Shattering Spree are your answers to Ethersworn Canonist. Lightning Bolt also comes in against any aggressive deck.

Echoing Truth is really good against Splinter Twin. Force them to do their combo and ask them how many copies they make. When they declare attackers, Echoing Truth on a token will bounce all the tokens and the original guy.

Finally Gigadrowse is for two matchups: Control and Twin. Against Control, you cast it to tap as many lands down as you can on their end step before you go off as you can. Against Twin, in response to the Splinter Twin being cast, tap their guy and make sure to replicate it as many times as you have mana so they can not just counter it with dispel. Note that this only buys you a turn but sometimes that is all you need.

Closing Thoughts

An important note about this deck is that it is not for the faint of heart. You are constantly on the verge of fizzling the turn you go off. Also, you must not be afraid to do crazy things like cycle a Manamorphose to find a digging spell when you rip lands two turns in a row. Once, I made the line of casting three Manamorphose on my opponent’s end step just to draw three fresh cards in order to set me up to go off next turn. I will admit that was a risky play, but you have to be fearless while playing this deck. Knowing that sometimes you have to just try and go off when it looks like you can not gives you the best shot at winning. Sometimes you will not get that extra turn you need.

Alright well that should about cover it. I hope to be seeing more Storm in the modern meta here soon. If you have any questions you can reach me at the following:

@chasing_logic on Twitter
Mathew Robinson on Facebook

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