Variance. The most frustrating experience there is when playing combo. I mean, you’re supposed to win, right? You’ve fought hard to get through all their countermagic and deal with all their hate bears and now you’re going offâ€”only to die to Ad Nauseam from twenty life, draw seven lands off of your Time Spiral, or to find that all your Narcomoebas are in the bottom six cards of your library. How depressing is that?
What if I told you there was a deck just about as fast as ANT where that doesn’t happen? A deck that, once ready, will always kill them? How about a deck that can, just by using its main engine, remove a Gaddock Teeg from play and win at the same time? Does that sound like something you’d be interested in playing?
Incredulous? I totally understand. A deck like that would be a well-known presence in the metagame, right? So here’s the catch: the deck is difficult to play. And when I say difficult, I mean truly difficult. ANT is a cakewalk in comparison. The only deck I’ve ever played that had a similar skill-cap holding it back was Vintage Gifts.
Guessed it? I’m obviously talking about Doomsday.
What I’ll do today is to give you a basic introduction to the deck as well as a few scenarios that illustrate both the power and complexity of the deck. Be warned, though, that there is a lot of work involved in actually learning how to play this deck even close to a level where you can take it to a tournament and expect to do well with it. Those that have succeeded with it in the past usually have been playing it for years.
I’m not one of them. Actually, whenever I playtest with the deck, I realize long after losing a game that there would have been lines that would have allowed me to winâ€”I just couldn’t find them. As such I’m going to be standing on the shoulders of giants today. Many of the resources I’m going to provide you with are based on the work of emidln, nemavera, lejay, and many other dedicated posters from the storm boards who spend their time trying to help others figure out how to play the deck at peak level. If you want to talk to actual experts, those are the guys that will be able to help you. For the moment, though, I assume you’ll want to know what the heck I’m talking about. So let’s get going.
Tools That Make Your Head Ache
Still with me? Good. Let me start by showing you the list:
So how does this crazy concoction work? Obviously this is another Ritual-based storm deck, but this one is essentially looking to set up a two-card combo: Doomsday and anything that allows you to draw the top card of your Doomsday pile. On the way there, you’re hopefully generating a little bit of storm by casting mana-acceleration and the Doomsday. Said Doomsday will then provide the rest of the storm count you need as well as access to your Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony.
As Doomsday is the very definition of an all-in play, you have Orim’s Chant and Silence to make sure your opponent can’t actually interact with you while you’re going for the win. These are particularly powerful disruption pieces at the moment because a lot of the countermagic that sees play is conditional, be it Daze, Spell Pierce, Spell Snare, or Stifleâ€”all cards that don’t interact with the Chant effects in the way the blue player really wants them to.
Cantrips and Sensei’s Divining Top (SDT, Top) allow you to find the pieces you need when you need them and to grind out blue decks to the point that a Chant effect will finally resolve. Once it does, you get to go for a safe, sure win that only asks you to be at least at two life.
A typical win might then look something like this:
You have Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond (LED), Doomsday, and any cantrip (Gitaxian Probe, Ponder, Brainstorm. SDT works, too, but then you have to include the cantrip in your pile instead of the Top) in hand with lands that can produce UB in play and at least two life. You Ritual and cast Doomsday, making this five-card deck:
You then cast LED, cantrip and sac the LED for UUU in response, drawing Ideas Unbound. You now cast Ideas Unbound, play both LEDs and the SDT you draw, sac the LEDs for RRRBBB, flip Top and Burning Wish for Tendrils for 20.
Does it look rather straightforward once you know the pile? Sure, it does. But now you have to consider that there are actually dozens of different piles with different requirements depending on how many and which cantrips you have in hand/play as well as what mana you have available. That makes it already somewhat more complicated, given that you need a lot of experience to see if you can win right now or not. Luckily for all of us, the nice guys from storm boards have created this handy list of Doomsday piles hereÂ (note that the document is a little older and whenever it refers to Street Wraith aka SW you can now substitute Gitaxian Probe and add one storm). There is also a spreadsheet by shaman containing similar information in an easier to parse way.
Even with the list available, there are still a lot of situations involving random one-ofs in hand that aren’t covered but in which you can win if you figure out the correct pile for the situation.
All of that doesn’t take the most complicated part of Doomsdaying into account: the opponent. Because you get to Tutor for the exact five cards you want, you can often use Doomsday to not only set up the win but also to beat most of the hate opponents might have in playâ€”if you figure out how to do it.
There are a ton of things to take into consideration: your hand, your board, what’s left in your deck, the opponent’s board and life total, possible spells they could have, and the exact order you want to draw/play your spells to create maximum effect. While doing so, you also have to keep track of your mana and storm count before actually starting to play anything. If the situation is difficult, you also might have to consider double-Doomsdaying, Doomsdaying into Burning Wish for Time Spiral, or the ability to create extra storm count by looping Sensei’s Divining Tops into one another.
By now, I often manage to figure out Doomsday scenarios in playtesting or when looking at the scenario sub-forum on storm boards. In a tournament setting, though, I’d stand a snowflake’s chance in hell. You see, in playtesting I can take five or even ten minutes to figure out how I win there; I don’t think my opponent’s would let me do that when playing under the lights, though.
Trying to simply explain these things in a helpful way is an exercise doomed to fail because they’re so context-dependent. The only way to learn these thought processesâ€”aside from playing and goldfishing the deck a lotâ€”is to work through game situations aka solve puzzles. So that’s what I’m going to give you today: some fun in the tradition of Magic: The Puzzling.
Assume you’re playing the above deck in game 1 situations, then try to figure out how you could possibly win that game. Answers will be provided after all situations are explained so as to tempt you less to look at the solution.
Click to Enlarge
Scenario 2 (originally posted by lejay)
Your opponent has been hitting you with discard and finally dropped a Liliana on turn 4, missing his land drop. On your turn you draw a Dark Ritual to complement the Doomsday already in your hand. What’s your plan for winning here?
You’re playing against RUG Delver and he has done what the deck does bestâ€”mess with your mana base while beating down. But during his last end step, you finally found the Dark Ritual you needed to shrug off his mana denial. As such you’ve decided to Probe on your main phase to see if the coast is clear and draw your Doomsday. He reveals two Stifle, Daze, and Spell Snare. You know that the card on top of your library is another Doomsday. How do you win from here?
Scenario 4 (originally posted by Caggii)
Your opponent started the game with a Leyline of Sanctity in play (filthy preboarder) and has been hitting you with disruption while beating down with Confidants, but luckily for you he has been cashing in his Jitte counters for life consistently. He then played a Liliana making both of you discard, and his slow clock threatens to kill you now in spite of his misplay. You have to win right now!
Scenario 5 (originally posted by lejay)
Your opponent playing Affinity has been very fast, opening the game on Vault Skirge and Cranial Plating to go to 30 life before adding an Etched Champion to his beatdown squad. In the meantime, you’ve been flooding out in spite of your Sensei’s Divining Top but have managed to stay alive by repeatedly Chant-walking him (Orim’s Chant with kicker). At the end of his turn, you activate your SDT and see Silence, Chain of Vapor, and Doomsday. Where do you go from here?
All the Answers
I hope you had some fun trying to figure out the puzzling game states yourself. Remember, those are things that will actually come up when playing the deck in a tournament. Pretty freaky, huh? Alright, alright, here are the answers you’re looking for.
This was definitely a pretty sweet mull to five, and given your opponent is playing Elves you get to just turn 1 him. Play your Swamp, cast Dark Ritual and Lion’s Eye Diamond followed by Doomsday (storm is 3). Make this pile:
Cast your Gitaxian Probe for two life and sacrifice the LED in response for UUU (UUU floating, storm 4). Draw Ideas, cast it drawing LED, LED and Probe (U floating, storm 5). Cast both LEDs (U, storm 7) followed by Probe, again cracking LEDs in response, this time for RRRBBB (URRRBBB, storm 8). Draw Burning Wish, cast it (storm 9), and get Tendrils of Agony to do exactly 20.
As long as you know how the deck works, this one is quite easy. Consider it the warm-up round if you want.
The trick here is to realize that you can’t win now, but as long as your land survives another turn you can safely pass after casting Doomsday and win on your next turn. Given that Liliana will lock you out of the game soon, him topdecking a Wasteland seems like a risk worth taking.
The problem then becomes how to get to the necessary 10 storm of off only five cards in your library. The solution to this is something only (very) old school Vintage players would usually have the chance to experience: abusing Timetwister’s (or in this case Time Spiral) ability to reshuffle your graveyard.
On your next turn draw Ideas Unbound and play it, cracking LED for RRR. Draw double LED and Burning Wish. Cast that with R floating, cracking the Diamonds for UUUUUU and go get Time Spiral, casting it and untapping Underground Sea. You will end up with exactly seven cards to shuffle back in and draw: Lotus Petal, three Lion’s Eye Diamonds, Doomsday, Burning Wish, and Ideas Unbound. Wish for your Tendrils after playing your artifact mana to win (don’t forget to sac the LED’s in response!).
Here is an example that illustrates how easily you can play through all kinds of soft counters with the deck. The secret is that Chants are good and Doomsday can also be used to help find them if you need it to, especially if you have access to multiple draw effects or a Brainstorm.
Cast Gitaxian Probe for life, falling to one, and draw Silence. Use Lotus Petal to cast Silence, shutting off all his Stifles and Spell Snares (storm 6). Now tap your Top, cracking LED for UUU in response, draw Ideas and cast it, drawing SDT and both LEDs (U floating, storm 7). Play all three artifacts (storm 10), crack the LEDs for RRRBBB, tap the top to draw Burning Wish, and Tendrils your opponent for 24.
Here we have to deal with a mix of permanent-based disruption (Leyline) and the fact that our hand was attacked, making it again hard to generate enough storm for a lethal Tendrils. This is made worse by the opponent being at 24.
The easiest way to ramp storm is to abuse Sensei’s Divining Top, which allows you to make your five cards play out like six or more if you can draw and recast it often enough. Including the Chain of Vapor in your Doomsday pile will deal with the Leyline easily and also help ramp the storm count.
Put your cards back as Dark Ritual, Doomsday, Flooded Strand. Tap SDT to draw Dark Ritual, then draw the Top during your draw step. In your main phase, float mana from your lands (BBUUU) use your other Divining Top to draw the Doomsday, then play the Top in your hand and flip it to redraw the other Top, which you cast (BBU, storm is 2). Play Dark Ritual, Doomsday (BU, storm 4) and build the following stack:
Tap your Top to draw Ideas, crack LED in response for UUU to cast it, drawing SDT, Chain of Vapor and LED (BUU in pool, storm is 5). Cast LED and Top (storm 7, BU in pool). Tap your Top to draw a card, in response cast Chain of Vapor targeting Top, and again in response sacrifice your LED for BBB (BBBB, storm 8). Once SDT gets bounced, sacrifice a land to copy Chain of Vapor and bounce the Leyline. Draw the other LED and play it, replay Top (which is already in your hand thanks to Chain), and crack the new LED for RRR (storm is 10, BBBRRR in pool). Tap your Top to draw Burning Wish and cast it to show your opponent that 24 life is not enough.
Once again the problem here is how to get your storm count high enough to deal the full thirty on limited resources. The solution requires thinking even further ahead; you need to actually Doomsday twice to win this game! Once you’ve wrapped your head around that possibility, there are a multitude of options to get there so I’ll only show you one. Feel free to share other solutions in the comments (this applies to all scenarios, by the way).
Flip SDT into Ideas and cast it, drawing both LEDs and the Top (WBBB, storm 4). Play the Diamonds and the Top followed by Doomsday number two, cracking both LEDs for RRRUUU (UUURRR, storm 7). Build exactly the same pile you already built:
Once again flip Top to draw Ideas Unbound and cast it, draw the LEDs and the Top you flipped, and play them all (URR, storm 11). Sac both LEDs for black, then tap Top to draw the other Top and cast it (BBBBBBRR, storm 12). Loop the Tops once more in that way (BBBBBBR, storm 13). Use the sixth black mana to activate your current Top to put Burning Wish on top, flip Top into it, and cast it for Tendrils of Agony (BBBB floating, storm 14). Four black mana, a storm count of fourteen, and a Tendrils of Agonyâ€”that’s one dead Affinity player!
Quite complicated, isn’t it? So let’s have it: how many of these did you manage to solve (other ways that work obviously accepted)?
The End of the World
There you have itâ€”the most mind-bogglingly difficult deck in the whole format. The deck not only turns the game into a fun and complex exercise in puzzling, though; it is also very powerful. Especially now that people are cutting Forces from their blue decks making Chant effects even more insane, Doomsday can easily play through their multitude of soft counters to unleash the Tendrils. Because the engine is largely unaffected by Gaddock Teeg and digs up both solutions and the kill at the same time, the deck is also more capable of playing through hate than any other storm deck.
In addition, early damage doesn’t really matter in the same way it does for more Ad Nauseam focused decks (as long as you’re still at two life, you’re usually fine), and your digging capabilities are effectively unmatched in the format between eight card-quality cantrips, four Probes, and four Sensei’s Divining Tops (ANT’s twelve cantrips might be equal to the task), meaning you can out-grind just about anyone.
The only problem with the deck is really the difficulty level. If you consider picking this up to bring to the next StarCityGames.com Legacy Open coldâ€”don’t. If you feel like investing your time in a powerful deck that plays like an intricate puzzle and will usually have the advantage that opponents’ simply don’t know what it’s capable of, Doomsday is exactly what you’re looking for.
I hope you enjoyed this little presentation. My thanks this week goes to all those players on storm boards whose posts have helped me grasp the subtleties of the deck and whose scenarios have helped me while away my time. My special thanks goes to Jean-Mary Accart aka Lejay, who was kind enough to allow me to share his work and to proofread this article so that I don’t miss something important somewhere (especially helpful for the scenarios).
That’s it for today; let me know if you found different solutions to the scenarios I proposed, how many of them you solved, or if I found some future devotees for the cult of Armageddon. Until next time, think before your play!