A Different Take on Stormbind in Standard

Earlier this week, Nick Eisel weighed in with some interesting thoughts on the use of Stormbind in Time Spiral Standard. Today we have Stuart Wright, one of the premier deckbuilders in the UK, sharing his personal take on the card. He brings two decklists to the table, and takes us through other ideas and directions with which we can explore the synergies presented by the current Standard cardpool…

When building new decks, there are roughly two different ways of going about it. First, you can simply build around a known game plan, such as “small creatures and burn.” The other option is to build around a small group of cards that have obvious inherent synergy. While the second type of deck can be something as obvious as the synergy created between the cards in a combo deck, it can also be a set of powerful cards that need other cards in the environment in order to excel. For example: Life from the Loam is a very powerful card, but it needs other cards to properly abuse it. In this case, the cards are Stormbind and Wildfire.

I’m going to go over the evolution of this deck. It didn’t start out too well, but you have to be ready to accept that your pet deck isn’t good enough to play at serious events. Given all the amazing mana-fixing currently available, you can try out a lot of different but similar decks if the base cards are powerful enough. This is what happened here, with the first incarnation of the deck having a large hole in its game-plan against certain decks. Thankfully, with a few adjustments it was more than able to compete.

R/G/W Stormbind – Life version 1.0

1 Plains
7 Forest
3 Temple Garden
2 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
2 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
1 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Boros Garrison

3 Birds of Paradise
4 Ohran Viper
3 Mystic Enforcer

4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Call of the Herd
4 Stormbind
4 Life from the Loam
4 Wildfire
3 Lightning Helix
4 Fiery Justice

Starting from the basics, I added more controlling cards to help us get to the late game so we could abuse Stormbind and Wildfire. Utopia Sprawl was picked over mana creatures for the obvious synergy with Wildfire, and I made sure all of this deck’s Green sources were also Forests. Mystic Enforcer gives us a powerful finisher that is resistant to removal, one that will almost always survive Wildfire. Fiery Justice isn’t too difficult to cast, and it’s often a lot better than Pyroclasm. Giving your opponent life is pretty irrelevant against decks where this card shines. The basic game plan is to wear the opposition down with removal and Wildfire, using either Mystic Enforcer or Stormbind to finish them after a long game.

Unfortunately, the above deck has some problems. While it smashes any aggro deck, it is lacking in disruption against control and combo. Most control decks can deal with the “one threat a turn” clock this deck provides, and racing combo seems rather unlikely. This means this is a metagame deck at best, and while aggro will be popular at upcoming events we need do something about the other parts of the field. We could simply add a bunch of sideboard cards to help us out… however, it seems better to try and take this deck in a different direction.

For the base we only need Red and Green, so we can simply add controlling cards. This seems quite likely to end up similar to other R/G decks, as the snow engine is too powerful to ignore… but we don’t want to make decks different just for the sake of it, and we are adding powerful new cards.

This deck shores up a lot of the weaknesses of the first. You have a game-plan versus control and combo decks – slowing them down with land destruction – while still having a bunch of very good cards against aggressive decks. Also, with only two colors you get to play Scrying Sheets for the late game. This deck can be a little slow, and it is possible that it should run more than six mana acceleration cards, but you do have a number of cards like Life from the Loam which can be dead draws.

All the creatures are snow, giving you a 28/59 chance to hit with the Sheets, which seemed like a good compromise between hitting an extra card often enough against having the other cards you really want. Gruul Turf has a lot of synergy with this deck, giving extra lands for Wildfire and Stormbind and just generally being very good when you are a little short of lands. The other snow creature, Phyrexian Ironfoot, just isn’t enough when you are base Green, with Call of the Herd being so much better. This could probably do with a creature that survives Wildfire, but nothing in R/G really fits here and Life from the Loam lets you recover pretty fast. Stormbind will kill them quickly anyway, if a Wildfire has reduced them to no permanents.

The late game power of Stormbind and Wildfire backed up with Life from the Loam means you want to stall out the game as much as possible, so keeping them off enough mana with land destruction effects prevents them playing out anything you can’t deal with. The Mwonvuli Acid-Moss in particular puts you a long way ahead, setting up powerful Wildfires. As is normal with this sort of deck, you need to try and use the land destruction effects first. Unless they are really beating you down, killing lands before playing out creatures is right. This is because hopefully losing some lands will slow them down, giving you more time in the future to play out your other spells. If you did it the other way round, the land destruction may be useless by the time you get time to cast it.

The sideboard contains mostly anti-beatdown cards, as the matchup against control is already pretty good. Taking out most of the land destruction, and bringing in lots of removal, helps you survive until you can Wildfire or set up Stormbind / Life from the Loam. Against control you don’t need the Stalking Yetis, and more land destruction seemed good. I wouldn’t normally put Tormod’s Crypt in the sideboard, but this deck seems very vulnerable to people casting Resurrection on Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

Other cards I considered include Into the North, for more Scrying Sheets. Spectral Force seemed reasonable, in that it survives Wildfire and costs less than six. Avalanche Riders were another option, but Mwonvuli Acid-Moss seemed to fit the deck better.

This deck does have a slight problem in that you only have eight ways of using Life from the Loam, so more options would be helpful. A card that seems powerful to me but has never really had a deck before is Trade Routes. With enough lands you can draw an insane number of cards with this, and dig for whatever you need. You also get some deck manipulation to stop acquiring a hand full of cards that are useless in multiples.

This deck replaces land destruction with counters and cuts back to three copies of the main cards because of the deck manipulation. Not drawing two copies of Life from the Loam is nice, and the extra ways to use it ensure it is very rarely dead. The maindeck is a little more stretched than in other versions, as it needs both Blue and Green early and still wants double Red for the late game. However, we do have plenty of good dual lands so if we need more sources we can always add more pain lands. This deck has the same basic plan as before, but it is now reactive: it’s countering their spells rather than preventing you opponent from playing them via mana denial.

You have the same basic set of creatures – just a few less this time. You don’t need to use your counters to protect your creatures, as in the long term you have plenty of ways of winning. While there is a logic to cutting out the creatures entirely (which would remove all the targets for their removal) this would leave you very vulnerable to aggro decks, and would mean you would need to find a way to win before they can burn you out.

You don’t need all the counters against aggressive decks, and having card drawing and stall cards will help you get to the late game against a fast aggressive game-plan. Trickbind is good against most combo decks, and it’s good when you are not sure exactly what sort of combo decks will be played. The Giant Solifuge is very easy to cast in this deck, and often decks will take cards like Pyroclasm out for games 2 and 3.

This deck doesn’t have to have so much Blue: you could simply splash Trade Routes into the R/G base build. However, Scrying Sheets is probably a better way of generating card advantage. These decks do have quite a few sorceries, so it could be possible to run this as a Magnivore style deck. Just take all the sorceries, and add Stormbind to it for some reusable removal / a finisher. This gives you a way to win against people with Tormod’s Crypt: just the threat of dredging back Life from the Loam will cause them to remove your graveyard, letting you refill it. Yet another plan would involve Summer Bloom and lots of bounce lands. The extra mana could power a very quick kill fuelled by Stormbind. Some sort of draw-go style deck is also possible, with loads of counters and just a splash of R/G for board control elements, using counters with Trade Routes as a lock of sorts.

To conclude, the last two decks are both fine but probably need a little more power to properly make Tier 1. They can be a touch slow to get going, but when they do it is pretty hard for most decks to get past Stormbind and Life from the Loam. This engine seems very strong, so it might well just be a case of working out what is the best way to abuse it. You could certainly play other colors, or even all of them. Standard currently has an awful lot of mana-fixing, with all the lands and cards like Utopia Sprawl and Twisted Abomination. It is pretty hard to predict what decks people will play, and if nothing else I hope that I have given you some idea what other people might end up running.

In case anyone wonders, this article has undergone a few recent rewrites… it’s simply a coincidence that Nick Eisel wrote about a similar deck a few days ago. OF course, there are a number of differences in our approaches – my version looks at Wildfire, while Nick concentrates on beats and one-for-one removal. In the end, the fact that both of us wanted to try and abuse the synergy inherent in these cards does say something for the potential power of this deck.

Good luck!