Deconstructing Constructed – Storming Into New Extended

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Tuesday, September 30th – Welcome to the first new Extended article in preparation for the next relevant Constructed season. The main subject of the day: Storm combo in Extended. We’ll begin with the Swath Storm Desire take on the combo, as it’s a rather obvious cross-over between the formats.

Welcome to the first new Extended article in preparation for the next relevant Constructed season. For some of you this won’t be particularly relevant, but for those interested in playing Extended on Magic Online down the road, or helping friends test for Pro Tour Berlin, this will be of use.

Before we get to Extended stuff, I’ll be launching into a brief tangent. Mind you this is purely my personal and horribly biased take on the new prerelease structure, rather than what may or may not be good for the structure on the whole. The short of it is simply that the new prerelease format annoys me to no end. Why? There are three main reasons:

1. They break up a huge chunk of the player population location-to-location.

Almost all interest I had in the set on the whole was killed by the fact that most of my Magic-playing buddies would be at different prereleases. This isn’t a simple matter of me choosing to go to the closest; rather, it’s that the collective group would be dispersed at 4-5 different locations. Some would be at smaller local stores, and a few others would be at the ‘large’ prerelease. This makes going a rather awkward experience, since most of the reason I went to the prereleases was to see a lot of my friends at the same time, to draft and play cube with them post-tourney. This possibility was pretty much taken away.

2. There’s no real reason to try to win anymore, as prizes are virtually nil.

What does 3-1 / 4-1 get you at these new prereleases? Three packs? A 4-1 record gets you four, or maybe six if you happen to be fortunate. What’s the point? You might as well get the product, get the promo foil, and then drop and discuss optimal sealed pools and test with friends instead of playing. You’d almost certainly get more help if you were planning on attending the Limited qualifiers, and I know I’d have more fun playing against friends. Meanwhile, if you actually attend and try to do well, your efforts are rewarded with a draft set for 4-5 hours of play time. Yay.

Again, this is once again coming from the perspective of crying, whiny old me. My main goal at the prerelease was go 3-1 or 3-0-1, pick up my 12 packs or whatever, sell most of them at four apiece to make back my entry fee, and save a set or two to draft with. In essence, I would be spending zero at prereleases, and actually making some amount of profit back in product. Oh, and then I’d get to cube.

3. Player Caps

Do I even need to explain my disdain for this?

In summary, hatehatehatehate.

Now that that’s out of my system, onto the main subject of the day: Storm combo in Extended. We’ll begin with the Swath Storm Desire take on the combo, as it’s a rather obvious cross-over between the formats.

The first list is from one of my friend’s who has been playing Extended in his spare time online. It also tends to look like many of the ‘standard’ builds floating around, if you can really say there is a normal version of the deck. The second version is my own, which I’ve been tinkering with on and off for the last week or so. The goal of the deck is simple enough: create a large amount of mana and storm on turn 3 / 4, and either win via Grapeshot pus Pyromancer’s Swath, double Grapeshot, or Grapeshot plus Remand. Alternatively, the casting of Mind’s Desire for seven or more is a kill the vast majority of the time, although it is possible to still fizzle.

The basic accelerants are present in each deck: Rite of Flame, Seething Song and Lotus Bloom, although many builds also run Desperate Ritual for more mana generation. Honestly, I haven’t missed Desperate Ritual at all, and the deck seems to combo out on turn 4 pretty consistently anyway. The deck has enough acceleration and cantrip capabilities to usually power through Thoughtseize or the destruction of Lotus Bloom.

Remand is the most common protection for the combo, since it can just negate a turn of mana use against an aggro deck early on with no loss of cards and still be useful against counter decks. If you’re still afraid of Blue decks, then I suggest you find room for maindeck Gigadrowse.

The big difference between my deck and the other builds is my removal of some amount of mana acceleration, and instead running Firespout and Serum Visions. Serum Visions isn’t a great card by any means, but cantrips of any sort are pretty good in this deck, and the Scrying portion can be extremely useful when digging for extra land or simply filtering early on. I mean, if I could run Brainstorm, I would, but since I can only get a set of Ponder and Peer for search, I needed something else cheap that could also dig up land if necessary. On the other hand, Repeal takes care of the Zoo one-drop while drawing a card, and if you use Chrome Mox can be used as a cheap storm-builder, something to consider for those looking for a slight edge without resorting to Visions.

The Firespout addition to the maindeck came with the realization that Zoo could race pretty consistently, and even other aggro at least had the potential too when Swath Storm is on the draw. The only other cut I made was into the land base, where I adjusted it for some charge-lands, which help against slower decks and give you some use for extra mana when you can’t just Remand something on turn 2 and beyond.

As far as boarding goes, I cut Pact of Negation because right now the only decks playing a legitimate amount of counters are silly U/G decks that wish they were Threshold, and bad Faeries decks. The former loses to Gigadrowse a decent amount of the time, as they don’t draw Stifle, while the latter scoops to Giga or a resolved Empty the Warrens barring a ridiculous board set-up. I think having a specific anti-Affinity card is necessary, if only for racing purposes, but also because things are awkward if they bring in Thorn of Amethyst (or the new Shards boy, Ethersworn Canonist).

At the moment, Zoo and Affinity look to be quite strong and will probably carry over some of the player-base of the decks from the pre-rotation, which means both will likely be popular. Against competent players, these tend to be more coin-flippy than I’d hoped with any version of the Swath deck I’ve seen so far. It seems to be half a turn too slow to have a consistent edge on both decks, as the additions from Shards makes both matches more of an issue than they were previously. As a result, I think sideboards need to be largely configured with those matchups in mind, at least until we find a reliable control deck.

A fact that may end up being my biggest concern with the deck in general is that you absolutely have to goldfish against half the decks in the format with the bare minimum of interaction. On the draw this ranges from very difficult to impossible, depending on the speed of the opposing hand, board hate, etc. It also brings up the question of just how easy it is to disrupt small chains of mana acceleration with some of the cards previously mentioned. Although at least this build is immune to Gaddock Teeg with most keepable hands, not to mention having maindeck answers just in case you do need to resolve a Desire to win.

As for other Storm, in a similar vein, we have the possibility for Dragonstorm combo. From Gerry Thompson article last week, we have this list:

4 Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 Bladewing the Risen
4 Ponder
4 Peer through Depths
4 Rite of Flame
4 Seething Song
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Remand
4 Dragonstorm
3 Gigadrowse
2 Pentad Prism
1 Chrome Mox
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
4 Dreadship Reef
1 Breeding Pool
2 Steam Vents
2 Island

4 Xantid Swarm
4 Firespout
1 Gigadrowse
2 Calciform Pools
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Pact of Negation

I haven’t played enough real games with the deck to give an educated opinion, but from my brief experience it tends to be quite strong. A notable advantage over its Swath counterpart is the compactness of everything. Instead of needing chains of spells for everything, two mana acceleration spells could be all it takes to cast a lethal or near lethal Dragonstorm. Also, if you weren’t reading the long thread in the article forum, GerryT actually does answer the question about Hellkite Overlord.

Forum dweller wrote:

You also forgot to mention Hellkite Overlord in Dragonstorm. This guy makes Dragonstorm far better, since he isn’t legendary, and in Extended they can kill you with this guy just by storming for two.

GerryT wrote:

“I did forget that. You are correct. My fault, etc.

Anyway, I think Rorix is better. Rorix is castable and hard to deal with (since everyone is high on Threads, Smother, and Firespout, and rightfully so).

I think we can agree that either four Hellkite or four Kokusho is correct either way. After you deal 20, the extra damage to offset their lifegain or whatever is kind of irrelevant as long as it’s a big number.

Hellkite does trample, which is a minor bonus. I could certainly be wrong on this, but I will compliment my Hellkites with Rorix for now.”

The deck goldfishes very nicely, and can negate certain types of hate like Runed Halo or the small amounts of life-gain without needing to rely on the board. Xantid Swarm is also a great option against control that can combine nicely with Gigadrowse, making it quite difficult for the classic wall of counters to stop you.

At the moment, these seem to be the main two Storm decks, but it wouldn’t shock me if another one was out there. Maybe something wacky involving Ad Nauseam, although the lack of Cabal Ritual makes me cry. Or going back to the old school and breaking out the old Aussie Plans deck, bringing back Hatching Plans to the limelight. Or not.

Next time, I’ll bring you the aggro decks that don’t get curb-stomped by storm combo.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom