Everyone has a favorite deck. Some people like to bash with assorted white creatures backed by light disruption; others like to sit around grinding
two-for-ones until some insurmountable win condition comes down to seal the game.
Personally, I like to goldfish. I know how to play a game where my opponent looks back and realizes nothing they did mattered.
Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Infernal Tutor, Ill-Gotten Gains, run it back into a Tendrils. Hope you had fun too. Cabal Ritual, Dark
Ritual, Ad Nauseam up twelve cards. Really, I can keep doing this all day.
So, as expected, this is the seventy-five I sleeved up for D.C.
There are already much better resources to learn about the exact details of Storm, but I’ll give you the crash course. Your plan is to cantrip into the
perfect hand, Duress them if necessary, then Tutor with a bunch of mana floating. From there, you either get more Tutors into a Tendrils if your storm
count is high enough, Ill-Gotten Gains (IGG) if it isn’t, and they can’t get back relevant cards, or Ad Nauseam if you just have to go for it. The key
interaction is Lion’s Eye Diamond being activated in response to casting Infernal Tutor, basically giving you Demonic Tutor and Black Lotus as four-ofs
with the only drawback being the need to have both of them at once.
Step one is cantripping. These are some of the most skill-intensive cards ever, but this deck makes it easy. First, figure out what type of cards you
need. Then ship everything else. Cast Preordain before the others, as it gives you marginally better percentages. Also, don’t be a moron and just throw
away Brainstorms. The default is that you never cast it unless you can immediately shuffle away the bricks or don’t plan on drawing another card that
game. Sometimes, you have scenarios where you’re just full of Brainstorms and want to just burn them all before a turn 3 kill, but those times are few
and far between.
Counting is key with this deck. Lotus Petal is plus-one mana; Dark Ritual is plus-two; Lion’s Eye Diamond (LED) is plus-three but only post-Tutor, and
Cabal Ritual is either plus one or three depending on threshold. If you have mana to cast it first, Infernal Tutor can go get a second thresholded
Cabal Ritual or LED for plus-one mana, while Grim Tutor can get one of those for plus-two storm at even mana. On a Tutor chain, you need four mana
floating after the last one, and each extra two mana is another storm.
On Ill-Gotten Gains loops, you need twelve mana to just go Infernal Tutor to IGG to Tutor to Tendrils, counting the mana you gain from returned
Rituals. This number is fourteen mana and six life if the Tutor is Grim Tutor or fifteen and three life if you go Grim to Infernal to IGG to start.
This is lethal if your first Tutor is your fifth spell. Again, two extra mana is an extra storm. If they have a single counter to get back, you can
return a Duress as one of your cards to beat it if you have enough mana. This makes the total you need to produce plus one. Against Daze and Spell
Pierce, just add appropriately and account for their getting it back off IGG.
On the subject of those decks, don’t get Wastelanded unless you have to. There’s a reason there are only two Underground Seas in the deck. Barring
variance in testing against Alex Bertoncini, I can’t remember the last time I got Wastelanded when I didn’t want them to do it.
In resolving Ad Nauseam, check if they’re dead after each card. No need to keep going and possibly lose hellbent status if you don’t have to. If you
flipped a Grim Tutor, remember you need three life to cast it. If you have to choose between stopping and digging with cantrips you’ve hit or flipping
more, usually the turning point is two life, where a bunch of things can just kill you if you hit them. If you can float mana and hold up a LED, it’s
likely worth it, as you just need an Infernal to win. In this list, Ad Nauseam with no mana or land drops left is risky at best. Keep in mind if they
don’t have a way to deal damage or lock you, you aren’t tied to winning that turn and can pass back to kill the next turn.
The maindeck is something I really haven’t considered changing since Columbus. It’s the best at what it does because it’s so linear. You have enough
basics to beat Wastelands and enough cantrips to sculpt your hand perfectly and quickly. Grim Tutor isn’t great, but it does the job in a way no other
card does. You can still IGG loop with it unlike Personal Tutor or Lim-Dul’s Vault.
Doomsday is close to reasonable, but needing a cantrip saved to start up is awkward, and Top doesn’t synergize well with your early game or Cabal
Ritual. The one incentive is access to a maindeck Chain of Vapor so you aren’t cold to a Gaddock Teeg. Burning Wish is also an option, but Rite of
Flame is so much worse than Cabal Ritual it isn’t funny.
If you want to go down that road, I’d stick with a similar maindeck to mine and fit in four Burning Wishes and a single Volcanic Island or Badlands
while changing your fetchlands appropriately. You most likely want to move one Infernal Tutor to the sideboard to Wish for in order to IGG loop with it
if you go down this road.
To be completely fair, if you’re better with Burning Wishes or Doomsdays or multiple Ad Nauseams, definitely play that build at major events until you
get good enough with another one. Storm is very unforgiving, and I can honestly say I lose as many or more games to my misplays than anything else.
Moving to the sideboard, Chain of Vapor is the best generic answer to any random hate-permanent bar one that I’ll discuss later. Not only does it cost
the least, but you can grind storm count by first targeting your zero-cost artifacts and then copying down the line before bouncing their Gaddock Teeg
or similar. Thoughtseizes round out your disruption suite against Force of Will decks and let you upgrade from Duress against creature decks where you
want to strip their clocks or creature-based hate. These five cards have not changed since the first build of the deck and probably won’t.
Moving on, you have Rebuild, which not only sends the new artifact decks back to the Stone Age but beats the otherwise problematic Chalice of the Void
on one, which otherwise is a huge issue. The second Ad Nauseam is for tempo decks, where it costs less and makes you stronger against Daze, and
attrition wars like Junk and the mirror, where it can pull you back from minimal cards in hand.
And finally, the part that matters the most. For a long time, I just assumed Counterbalance was unwinnable, and you just accepted you beat 90% of the
metagame. You could still mise out the builds that were just on Force of Will for counters, but the four-color builds were unbeatable. I tried answers
to their lock like Krosan Grip, but they suffered from the standard issue of being conditional answers in a proactive deck; they didn’t always line up,
and you’d have a bunch of blanks that are bad with Ad Nauseam. I tried a bunch of discard and Dark Confidants to fight all of their cards at once, but
you’d just die to random beatdown, and they had to leave in removal, as they didn’t have enough cards to board in anyway, meaning your Bobs un-blanked
their cards. I tried just boarding into a turbo configuration with Chrome Moxes and another Ad Nauseam, but Chrome Mox was terrible, and it was a gut
shot at best.
Doomsday was a plan promoted by one of the top Storm players, who goes by Practical Joke on various forums. He cited the card as the turning point in
the Counterbalance matchup and I was willing to give anything a try at that point. Ten post board games and seven wins later against the previously
unstoppable Four Color build and I was sold. The person I was testing against was even boarding in their Pithing Needles and Peacekeepers and it didn’t
matter. I didn’t even know how to actually play the card, and it didn’t matter. I thought a bit about it and consulted with him on piles, and this is
where I got.
The plan is to board out four Infernal Tutors, two Lion’s Eye Diamonds, Ad Nauseam, Ill-Gotten Gains, Tendrils of Agony, two Preordains, and an Island
for the Chains of Vapor, Thoughtseizes, Doomsdays, Emrakul, Shelldock Isle, and Trickbind to become the best Doomsday deck you can be. Infernal Tutor
is awkward with Doomsday, as it just makes you have to invest more into it and doesn’t let you hold extra pieces to create a better stack. LED is also
bad when you plan on passing the turn after resolving the big spell. Ad Nauseam gets much worse when you have a bunch of threes and a fifteen to hit,
and Ill-Gotten Gains is already bad against the counter-heavy lists. That leaves a very lonely Tendrils with no purpose other than to be a blank when
you draw it. There might be merit to leaving in a Doomsday and Ill-Gotten Gains stack against the light counter lists, but for now, none of them can
really handle the Spaghetti Monster.
After Doomsday resolves, you get Emrakul and Shelldock Isle. The Shelldock will be the top card in all but one case, and the Emrakul should be the
bottom one, so it doesn’t accidentally get Vendilion Cliqued into your hand. The other three cards are dependent on the situation.
Chain of Vapor: This is usually a good one, as it solves everything from a Jace to an otherwise lethal Tarmogoyf. Remember; if you have two, you can
set up to cast the second in response to their activating Top with Counterbalance in play. Against a blind Counterbalance with a Pithing Needle on
Shelldock, you can play one main phase, see if it resolves, then try again on their draw step against another random card. If it resolves, you can then
Emrakul them right there.
A second Doomsday and mana to cast it: This recycles your other cards to keep you from decking. Just naturally Shelldocking them gives you only two
Emrakul attacks, as you draw Shelldock Isle the next turn (four cards left) and play it, hiding Emrakul (three cards left). You then untap, draw (two
cards left), and Emrakul them, attacking the next turn (one card left). This means a chump blocker would kill you. If you have extra slots in the
stack, this is a good insurance measure.
Brainstorm: If they have active Jace in play, you stack this on top, so that you can untap and get to Shelldock Isle regardless. If you do this, you
usually need to have the second Doomsday in the stack, as drawing a card off of Brainstorm cuts the number of Emrakul attacks you get to one.
Trickbind: Sometimes, they have a Karakas or Wasteland to stop your combo. This ends that. You need two non-Shelldock lands to beat Wasteland, as if
you untap, you can immediately Shelldock with three other lands to beat Karakas, as you have to activate it with Trickbind mana up.
One thing to keep in mind: You can end-of-turn activate Shelldock Isle, so that you get the two Emrakul attacks in a row. This is useful in corner
cases, like when they have a ton of permanents and a Jace with Counter-Top stopping your Chains of Vapor.
The day of the tournament, I prepared in standard fashion: I talked up my deck to a ton of people and made sure everyone but Ben Wienburg knew how I
was going to crush him with Doomsday. Calosso Fuentes managed to steal a bit of the thunder with his sick Cephalid Breakfast, but I feel I emerged
victorious in that fight.
Round One: W/U/G Counterbalance (Jon Medina)
Before the match, I tell Jon we probably shouldn’t bother starting to shuffle at the table. Sure enough, we were the fake feature match. Going in, I
knew Jon would be playing this deck after watching him in Indianapolis. It was time for a trial by fire. The Bant versions of this deck are actually
not terrible for Storm, as they only pack four Forces of Will for counters, making it easier to just kill them early or have discard open for their
lock pieces. Still, it was going to be interesting.
Game one, he mulliganed to five cards but had a turn 1 Sensei’s Divining Top. I had the option of going for a weak combo on turn 2 (either Ad Nauseam
with zero floating or no Duress backup) or shipping back and hoping he didn’t have a Counterbalance on top. After spending a while in the tank, I chose
the latter and am still not sure if it was correct. He peeked at this top three, and I dodged the bullet when he shipped back after doing nothing. I
Duressed his last two cards to prevent him from being able to flip Top into a Force and won easily.
I boarded as described above for the Doomsday plan.
Game two, I chucked terribly. I was at eighteen life facing down a soon-to-be-cast Vendilion Clique, and I resolved Doomsday going to nine. I
mistakenly wrote he had two Rhox War Monks in hand, meaning he would clock me before I could kill him. I made the pile of Brainstorm, Shelldock, Chain,
Doomsday, and Emrakul, so I could get to a Chain for the lethal Rhox War Monk and died when he flipped a one-drop to Counterbalance. Had I written
correctly that he had only one, I would have Thoughtseized it from his hand, dropping to eight life and having time to Emrakul him, as I was only
facing down a single 3/1.
Game three, I just cast a Doomsday. It resolved. He died soon after.
Round Two: W/U Counter-Top
Game one, he mulliganed and decided he wanted to end-of-turn Brainstorm. His next turn was fetchland, pass, meaning he either played Brainstorm
terribly or had all cards he wanted to keep. When I Duressed him, he Enlightened Tutored for Counterbalance, revealed he had nothing, and died to an Ad
I boarded in the Emrakul plan again in the exact same way as before.
Game two really showcased the transformational board. He led on double Leyline of Sanctity, Tutor for Top, and had the Counterbalance for the turn 3
lock, an unbeatable start for the Storm plan. He never had a chance. I Pondered on turn 1 and resolved Doomsday on 2. I later found out he was boarding
Mindbreak Traps and Orim’s Chants on top of Leylines, and I had very casually dismissed the most spiteful deck I’ve ever played against with Storm.
Round Three: Enchantress
My opponent told me he was new to the format, which meant this would be a fun match. I Duressed his Solitary Confinement on turn 1 and walked him
through an IGG kill on turn 3.
I sideboarded three Chains of Vapor and a Thoughtseize for three Preordains and an Island. The Preordains can generally just be skimmed, and the
seventeenth land isn’t necessary against quick matchups without Wastelands. I definitely wanted the last Thoughtseize and don’t usually like going
fewer than ten cantrips but couldn’t find room.
Game two proceeded much like game one. On the last turn, I cast the Ill-Gotten Gains I had drawn with an Infernal Tutor left in hand, so that if he had
a Mindbreak Trap I’d win through it. Either he countered the IGG and gave me exact storm to Tutor into Tendrils, or he didn’t, and I got a Ritual back
to cast Duress and take it. Turned out he had nothing.
In general, this matchup is very easy, and if they start packing enough hate to matter, you can board in Doomsday, as they have real Emrakul issues
(end-of-turn it here to dodge Oblivion Ring), or just have one Reverent Silence and a Tropical Island. With Grim Tutor, you’ll eventually find it
before they kill you, and once you do, nothing they’ve done the whole game actually matters.
Round Four: Zoo
Game one, he won the die roll and got me to nine life on his turn 3. I untapped, ran the preemptive “Good Game,” and won with a Tutor chain directly to
I boarded two Thoughtseizes and three Chains of Vapor for two Preordains, two Duresses, and an Island. Thoughtseize takes Gaddock Teeg; Duress does
not. If they have Mindbreak Traps, you move one Duress back in for a Chain or Preordain depending on what else you saw.
Game two, I Thoughtseized his Gaddock Teeg on turn 1. I tanked for a bit facing lethal on board, but it was only to see whether I had a line that beat
a Mindbreak Trap. Turned out I did have one involving Chain of Vapor building storm on my LED and Petal, and he didn’t have Trap in his hand.
Round Five: Junk/Hexmage-Depths
Game one, he had an early Hexmage and Hymned away Lion’s Eye Diamond and Brainstorm. Despite losing my best two cards, I cast Ad Nauseam two turns
later at fourteen life. Unfortunately, the run-bads continued, and the Tendrils and Ill-Gotten Gains showed up to kill me.
I boarded the second Ad Nauseam, a Thoughtseize, and three Chains of Vapor for two Preordains, two Duresses, and a Lotus Petal. You don’t really want
to fight an attrition war, so you board down on discard and just shift to cover a hate bear. The chains were for Marit Lage tokens as well as random
hate bears and the ability to go off without IGG in case of Extirpate. The second Ad Nauseam is just to make winning a post-Duress war easier. If I had
Dark Confidants, they’d be much better at it.
Game two, he had an Extirpate and a lot of do-nothing. I set up, so he couldn’t remove my threshold and ended by Cabal Ritualing into a Tutor chain to
Game three, he mulliganed to five and died on turn 2 to an exact mana and storm Ill-Gotten Gains loop.
This matchup and similar ones seem close, but really they’re fairly easy. The only complaint I ever hear is “They ripped the fourth/fifth Hymn, and I
could’ve beaten the first three/four.” You just have too many cantrips to fall to their discard unless they have a ton of it and a clock.
Round Six: Zenith Zoo
Game one, he did nothing of relevance, and I decided to count to thirteen instead of ten mostly because I could.
Board plan was the same as the last Zoo matchup.
Game two, I also counted to higher than ten, but this time, I had to do so to beat a Lightning Helix that put him to twenty-two.
If I could say more about the Zoo matchup, I would. Seriously, it’s that easy.
Round Seven: Fiery Justice Natural Order Zoo
This was covered in a feature match, but here’s
the version condensed for relevance.
Game one, I untapped on turn 3. He did not untap on turn 4.
The same sideboarding applies as before.
Game two, he hit the out of my mulliganing to four. My four-card hand also had Ill-Gotten Gains, which was completely blank. The Brainstorm I cast on
two put that and a Tendrils back, and I snap-main-phase-fetched for a second Sea. Turned out he had turn 3 Terastodon to kill my lands. Had I been
smart and waited to fetch until his end step or my upkeep, he was dead on my turn 3. Oops.
Game three, he landed a Teeg, but I Grim Tutored up a Chain of Vapor to bounce it and killed him.
Three wins and four virtual byes later, I was looking at a lock for Top 8.
I spent rounds eight and nine drawing in against Zoo and Goblins. I also spent round nine conversing with the judges. Before everyone had drawn, I told
Kemper that he should draw his opponent in, as she was on a Zoo list with Kird Apes and Loam Lions, which are terrible in the mirror and also terrible
against me. Turned out he was in his seat for the match when I said this, despite his opponent not being there and no one having their cards out. It
was ruled as Outside Assistance, which resulted in a match loss for me that round. I immediately realized this once they started asking about it, and I
basically told them the penalty that should be applied myself. I then proceeded to sort my deck for Top 8. Sometimes you run so hot you can’t chuck it
away even if you try.
Top 8: Zoo
This was again covered and again fairly
Game one, he didn’t do anything, and I strolled my way into a kill on turn 3.
Sideboarding for the matchup still did not change. Even though I knew he didn’t have Trap from the decklists, I still wanted to Duress a Green Sun’s
Zenith or Enlightened Tutor, as they represented a hate bear.
Game two was more of the same. There were only two real decision points. His first Zenith went for a Knight of the Reliquary, which immediately cued me
off that he had another in hand and prompted me to Duress him the next turn. His Wastelanding my Sea also put me closer to threshold for my Cabal
Rituals, which was a nice bonus. I then bounced his Knight of the Reliquary on his attack, as I had to Grim Tutor and couldn’t do that if I took the
hit down to four life, facing an active Grim Lavamancer. If he’d ripped a Gaddock Teeg or Ethersworn Canonist between his draw step and Horizon Canopy
activation, I would’ve had to rip another Chain right back. He didn’t, and I had more than enough to mana to Grim into Infernal, so I could IGG and not
die to Lightning Bolt.
Top 4: Team America
I’m not sure when the video goes up, but when it does, you can watch me get casually demolished in what couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes.
Game one, I was too focused on Stifle as a counter for Tendrils and completely forgot he could use it as a Stone Rain. I blew my blue source here and
didn’t actually do anything else for the rest of the game. To add insult to injury, he drew his second black source to Hymn my Cabal Ritual and Ad
Nauseam, then hit the two dead Preordains to leave me hellbent after ripping the next one. On the last turn, I was live if he had seen all blanks in
his last six cards, but obviously that wasn’t the case.
I boarded out two Preordains for two Thoughtseizes and the sideboard Ad Nauseam for the Ill-Gotten Gains. Ad Nauseam is a kill that wins through
in-hand Stifles, as you can draw more discard, whereas Ill-Gotten Gains gets real rough if they have a lot of counters. He didn’t have any hate and had
Wastelands, so everything else was a blank.
Game two, his hand had everything, and I wasn’t even close to in it. He had at least two Forces of Will more than he needed.
This is the one matchup I still have to work out. It’s definitely not unwinnable, but the issue is that all of their cards do something actively
disruptive or are a cheap clock. There isn’t really a good gimmick like Doomsday to get them, as their disruption is all so broad. Dark Confidant is
probably the best bet, as it lets you keep a full hand while you battle to shred theirs, but it might just be better to board up on Ad Nauseams and try
to stick one on turn 2.
Looking back, there really isn’t anything I’d do different this event. I lost five games the whole event, and I can account for three of those to my
own play. Looking to the future, the deck is rock solid. If you’re seriously concerned about other Thoughtseize decks, you can move Dark Confidants
back to the board, but that’s about it.
To be honest, there probably is enough hate for decks to beat Storm, but for a lot of decks, it’s close to the full fifteen and even that might not be
enough. So, until the inevitable day where Lion’s Eye Diamond isn’t a legal card to play, don’t expect those Wild Nacatls and Goblin Lackeys to be
enough against me.Â