The Coming Storm: Three Cards That Might Be Worthwhile In Standard And Extended

My U/G Threshold deck had all sorts of torturous ways to get cards into the ‘yard, including the card-disadvantageous Breakthrough and the non-threatening Hapless Researcher. Not coincidentally, with all of those cards taking up slots that would rather be used to put giant Wurms into play, the deck went 3-3-drop at Regionals. But now, all you have to do is have 1U open when anyone plays a spell, and bingo! Instant threshold… And a lot of freed slots that can make it similar to other U/G builds. And what’s that about a card that might break Extended Tinker?

In this little game that we play, the whole point of new keyword mechanics is to allow players to break the rules a little bit. Want creatures that can’t be blocked? The Shadow knows. Don’t want to lose your spell after you’ve played it? Buy it back. Want to be able to re-use your spells later? Have a flashback. Think discarding cards actually should be a good thing? That’s Madness!

Which brings us to the newest keyword being used to sell lots of boosters: Storm. In my opinion, this is a very dangerous mechanic that is on the verge of breaking the rules a little too much. Getting only one effect per casting cost is a fundamental part of the game, and getting multiple effects cheaply can lead to degeneracy in short order, as anyone who ever cast Fork back in the day will tell you.

It’s not a coincidence that the only other spell since Fork that could make copies of other spells is the Mirari, which is rare, Legendary, has both a prohibitive casting cost of five and a prohibitive activation cost or three… and still manages to be a key component in the best deck in Standard (Cunning Wake). And now we get to make more than one copy of a spell for free? Woo hoo!

But of course, R&D is not a group of fools. They’re not going to give us an instant-speed bounce spell for 1UU that can be stormed; they’re going to give us the decidedly worse Temporal Fissure. The”for each card played before it” part of the mechanic, in addition to the excessive casting costs for most of the Storm spells, and the fact that some of the most powerful effects are attached to sorcery spells, turns many of the cards into Constructed junk. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that nobody is going to be breaking Hunting Pack or Dragonstorm any time soon.

But, that still leaves several spells that are cheap, have useful or powerful effects, and can easily be fit into existing deck strategies. I’d like to take a look at three of them.

1. Brain Freeze

This little ditty has the honor of being the cheapest of all the storm spells, which made me to want to break it first. With the advent of flashback, threshold, and Psychatog,”Milling” cards into the graveyard is just as powerful when used on yourself, if not more so, than when used on the opponent.

Loyal readers of my work for That Other Site will remember my pet U/G Threshold deck, The Blueprint. That deck had all sorts of torturous ways to get cards into the ‘yard, including the card-disadvantageous Breakthrough and the non-threatening Hapless Researcher. Not coincidentally, with all of those cards taking up slots that would rather be used to put giant Wurms into play, the deck went 3-3-drop at Regionals.

But now, all you have to do is have 1U open when anyone plays a spell, and bingo! Instant threshold. (The Freeze itself, the three cards from its resolution, and three cards from the Storm copy’s resolution = seven cards in the bin.) Using this as your threshold enabler frees up a lot of slots for other spells that can make the deck similar to the other powerful U/G builds, and thus a new version is born:

The Blue Freeze

3 City of Brass

4 Flooded Strand

4 Windswept Heath

6 Island

6 Forest

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Nimble Mongoose

4 Werebear

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Brain Freeze

4 Careful Study

3 Wonder

2 Genesis

3 Circular Logic

3 Roar of the Wurm

2 Deep Analysis

(Note: All decklists in this article are what I like to call”beta versions”: They’re still under construction and testing while we wait for Scourge to become legal. Do not assume they are ideal builds by any means.)

The deck is, of course, similar to classic U/G, but beefy Werebears and Nimble Mongeese have the advantage of staying beefy, while other U/G decks can run out of cards in hand for their Wild Mongrels. I would also note that there may be other Scourge cards that are good in this deck, such as the Forgotten Ancient (with twenty-nine spells that can be cast for two or less, you can get a lot of +1/+1 counters in a real short time, plus he comes back via Genesis) or Stifle (a nice weapon against Astral Slide and Wake’s Krosan Verge).

A second deck that could use Brain Freeze is Psychatog. Although Dr. Teeth hardly needs the help – at Regionals, the archetypical Cunning Wish versions of the deck were able to qualify people for Nationals as easily as if it were still Fall 2002 – it wouldn’t hurt for the deck to get faster, to compete against the Red/Green Elephant Guide beatings that it is occasionally vulnerable to.

“Mr. Psychatog” Andrew Cuneo had already come up with an ingenious design for the Online Worlds Qualifier, utilizing Peek and Future Sight to zip through the deck and quickly build a gigantic toothy punk. That deck was fast – so fast that it rarely needed to Upheaval, except as a way to control the opponent’s board. But Brain Freeze can make it even faster. Imagine: One Freeze puts four cards in the bin, giving the Tog +2/+2. Stormed once, he gets +3.5/+3.5. Stormed twice? +5/+5. And so on. An Atog that only looks moderately hungry just needs the opponent to attempt a spell, you to counter it, and an end of turn”Peek, Freeze” to turn it into a double-digit monstrosity – and that’s not even counting the cards remaining in hand or already in the graveyard.

It is child’s play to fit two Freezes into Cuneo’s original design. It’s also a good idea to switch in Deep Analysis for Concentrate, since the former can still help if it goes into the ‘yard via a Freeze, but the latter can’t.


4 Psychatog

3 Chainer’s Edict

4 Circular Logic

4 Counterspell

3 Deep Analysis

4 Force Spike

2 Future Sight

2 Brain Freeze

4 Peek

4 Smother

1 Upheaval

3 Darkwater Catacombs

10 Island

4 Lonely Sandbar

4 Polluted Delta

2 Swamp

2 Underground River


2 Concentrate

2 Delusions of Mediocrity

4 Duress

2 Engineered Plague

3 Hibernation

1 Mana Short

1 Upheaval

A neat trick with this deck is to Force Spike in situations where you know the opponent can pay, or to Force Spike your own spells and pay, just to set up a giant Freeze. Also, a possible tactic for the mirror is to get into a counter war and end it by Freezing the opponent (assuming he can’t follow it with a lethal Tog swing, duh); if he’s been Compulsion-ing and drawing cards like crazy, this can get him into decking range. However, you should be careful about Freezing in any situation, as you will probably lose several spells and lands that you have no ability to get back, or your opponent could get something in the graveyard that you don’t want him to have (like Genesis or Glory). The Freeze should be used like an Upheaval: Only play it when you can calculate a kill, or in emergencies.

2. Wing Shards

White gets cheap removal! Yes, I know it’s not spot removal, but given the way White has gotten shafted in this area recently, I expect this is the best we’ll get for a while.

This card wasn’t number one on my Storm list because it’s not quite as good as it looks; smart players will attack before playing any spells in order to avoid being wrecked. But think about what the mere threat of this card will do! U/G will think twice about madnessing out a Basking Rootwalla or Arrogant Wurm during combat. R/G decks will reconsider enchanting their men with Elephant Guide before attacking. Wake will have yet another way to stall the opponent’s damage while they ramp up to combo-lock mana. And Goblin Warchief will not be the game-breaker in Block Constructed that some folks think he will be – not as long as a Slide deck can drop some Shards onto all the hasted red men.

But the thing that this card really makes me wonder is if White Weenie decks can make a comeback in Standard. Perhaps this sort of build will soon be viable:


14 Plains

4 Flooded Strand

4 Secluded Steppe

4 Deftblade Elite

3 Weathered Wayfarer

3 Spurnmage Advocate

4 Silver Knight

4 White Knight

4 Whipcorder

3 True Believer

3 Master Apothecary

2 Exalted Angel

4 Wing Shards

3 Divine Sacrament

1 Decree of Justice

This probably is not an ideal build – two Angels might be too few, Decree of Justice isn’t that good, and how the hell does this beat Wake? – but it’s a starting point that somebody can work with. Drive the opponent crazy with small men, use Shards (or bluff the Shards) to hold back his attackers, and finish him with an Angel. The Master Apothecary, already popular thanks to the deck that won this year’s Grudge Match, makes an appearance and prevents some damage. And no one should overlook the Deftblade Elite, who keeps the opponent from casting his Merfolk Looters or Grim Lavamancers.

3. Mind’s Desire

This card inspired the same response from me as Future Sight:”Good Lord, is this ability absurd! What can I do about the casting cost?” That, really, is the only question keeping this card from simply being banned. And don’t think banning can’t still happen. Six mana is a lot – but mana cost was also supposed to be a check on Mind Over Matter, and people found a way to break that card too.

All you really have to do is find a way to resolve this puppy as the third or fourth spell in a turn, and then bury your opponent under a mountain of free card advantage. And if one of those spells you get for free is a storm spell, you can go crazy. And if that storm spell was another Mind’s Desire

Too much degeneracy… Brain hurts … Losing … Consciousness.

[author name="Oscar Tan"]Oscar Tan[/author] points out that Mind’s Desire needed to be restricted in Type I because zero-casting-cost artifacts can create insane displays that are possible on turn 1, and I’m inclined to agree with him. However, in other Constructed formats, the card is not quite as ridiculous. People forget that the”one huge turn” plan requires six mana to cast the first Desire, plus enough mana to cast other spells earlier in the turn so the Desire will be stormed, plus some method to reload both your hand and your mana in case you draw blanks off of the Desire … Not so easy anymore, is it? The only deck that can even think about doing all this before turn 6 is the Extended Tinker deck, and the drawback in that case is …

… um …

(nervous cough)

… actually, Mind’s Desire in a Tinker deck sounds pretty scary. How’s this for a turn: Upheaval, floating six colorless and U, Thran Dynamo, Voltaic Key, use Dynamo, Metalworker, another Key, untap Dynamo, Island, use Dynamo, Mind’s Desire stormed five times. Even if you get five land in a row off the Desire, the sixth card can be one of several choices – Tinker, Phyrexian Processor, Masticore, Mishra’s Helix – and it’s all over.

Building a Standard deck around Mind’s Desire is really something to devote an entire article to. Until I can do that, I will build off of the words of Brian David-Marshall, who mentioned that Mind’s Desire would go well in the Future Sight deck. The Desire adds a non-infinite win condition that you can use if you don’t have Future Sight in play. Let’s say you have six mana in play against an opponent with no countermagic in his deck. A thresholded Far Wanderings followed by an Early Harvest gives nine untapped lands, then you Mental Note and flashback Deep Analysis, which lets you Mind’s Desire stormed four times. Even if we could guarantee that you wouldn’t pull another Early Harvest, as long as one of the five Desire draws is a Brain Freeze, as many as thirty-three cards will be Millstoned off the top of the opponent’s library. The more mana-developed you are, the more ridiculous this sequence would get.

By the way, Brain Freeze is a much more efficient win condition than the previous Predict, especially for you MODO mofos; it’s a lot easier to cast one”I win” spell than to win by casting one spell an infinite number of times (although I will miss the fun of naming a Predict card like Hundroog or Break Open). (Hundroog! – The Ferrett)

Kids, keep these rules in mind before you think you’ve found some devastating Mind’s Desire combo: Any pre-Desire effects must be played before you shuffle your library, since once you shuffle your library, no other effects may be played until after the card has been revealed and removed from the game; non-instant spells cannot be played until after the Desire and all of its stormed copies have resolved.

Until next time, I hope you don’t lose to someone who misses five different chances to kill you (as I did at a Scourge Limited tournament last week). Later.