Why I Chose Storm For Pro Tour 25th Anniversary

One of the best to ever cast a spell wants to share his experience and sideboard plan for anyone looking to combo off from the Modern seat at SCG Dallas!

Early in our testing for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, the prospect of playing
Storm in Modern came up. This was my reply:

“Storm has been pretty bad for a while, and then we get Damping Sphere
and a likely high splash graveyard hate environment. I never played
against Ironworks, so can’t really add there, but I’d be surprised if
even a really good matchup moved Storm up to where we want to be. It’s
mostly a deck that I’ve given up on forever.”

A month later, we were playing Storm at the Pro Tour. How did this happen?

First, I’d remembered Storm as being bad against Humans, but Billy Jensen
thought the opposite. So, I went back to our stats from the last Modern PT,
looked at my results, and found he was right. Humans had been a bad matchup
for Mono-Blue Living End, which I’d also played a lot, but not Storm.
Keeping records during playtesting is a great thing – you must be sure not
to overgeneralize from small samples (and usually however many matches you
play, it’s still a pretty small sample), but sometimes you have
recollections that are simply untrue.

Second, I got unexpectedly lucky with my internet. I was in Colombia for a
wedding with internet that was too bad to play Ironworks, our most likely
deck at that time. So, I played some Storm for some fun and to get a feel
for the metagame and because it’s the only deck I completely own on my main
account. I didn’t even worry about being secretive because I definitely
wasn’t going to play it at the PT, and I didn’t even bother to edit the
deck from my previous version.

And I started winning. And winning some more. And kept winning.

Storm is a metagame deck. It excels against decks that lack either a clock
or disruption but has a really hard time against decks that have both. The
nightmare deck is Grixis Death’s Shadow since they have a fast clock,
creature removal, discard, and counterspells to boot. The other really bad
matchup for Storm is Burn, as they have a really fast clock, can kill
Baral, Chief of Compliance/Goblin Electromancer, and often have Rest in
Peace in their sideboard to attack the graveyard. However, in the time
between the last Modern PT and this one, Grixis Death’s Shadow and Burn had
moved from being major parts of the metagame to fringe decks, something
which held true at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.

The final version of the maindeck we registered was one card off from my
initial list. Billy Jensen held me down until I agreed to play a Repeal

“What do you do if they Meddling Mage you Game 1 and name Grapeshot?”

“I lose.”


“I don’t consider that a problem.”

In the end he convinced me, because in addition to his superior strength,
size, and cunning, he pointed out that if we made top 4, our opponents
would have decklists and would know that naming Grapeshot with Meddling
Mage was a game-winning play. Therefore, we went from seven cost-reducers
to six plus a Repeal.

The sideboard work was mostly done by my teammates and the Ultimate Genesis
guys, and they stayed with a basic strategy that I think is important.

When playing Storm, don’t try to have mediocre answers to hate cards. Try to have a strategy that wins around hate cards, rather than through it.

Most of the time after sideboarding, you’re siding down to one copy of both
Past in Flames and Grapeshot, which is usually enough to win, but you also
have the Empty the Warrens plan just in case. Additionally, there were
multiple one-of answers to hate cards to take advantage of Gifts Ungiven
while also playing around Meddling Mage.

I wanted to take a moment to talk about a couple maindeck choices that may
look surprising. The first is Pyromancer Ascension. Mediocre Storm players
have hated this card for years, and I really don’t understand that at all.
Yes, it doesn’t contribute to your absolute fastest draws, but when you
play actual games of Magic, it does so much. You win most games either by
getting a cost-reducer in combination with Gifts Ungiven/Past in Flames,
but it’s almost impossible to win without putting together both cards. An
active Pyromancer Ascension is almost always a win as well and because
there’s a lot more creature removal out there than enchantment destruction
right now, an Ascension versus any deck without a very fast clock is often
a win on its own.

The second card I want to discuss is Remand, one of the most polarized
cards in Storm. Remand is absolutely terrible against Humans, Burn, Grixis
Death’s Shadow, and other decks that rarely spend more than two mana for a
spell. But against Ironworks, Mono-Green Tron, and all shades of control,
Remand can be an absolute backbreaker. If you’re in a format where Remand
is terrible, Storm is probably not a great choice (except the 60% Humans
metagame), but it’s probably not a card you’re usually going to want to
play more than two copies of anyway.

My Pro Tour

My final record with Storm at the #PT25A was 9-5, and I think overall – on
what was a disappointing tournament for our teams – our Storm results were
pretty good. This is actually my worst performance with Storm at a PT,
having previously gone 8-1-1, 8-2, and 7-3 the previous times I’ve played
it. I do love the deck, but I think it’s important to only play it in the
right metagame and have a really good idea how the matches play out after

Playing the deck itself is pretty interesting for two reasons. First, it
has a lot of little choices. The twelve blue cantrips all include selection
and Gifts Ungiven can often take that level of decision making to another
level because it makes you think about what your opponent thinks
you need. Also, because it still comes up sometimes, you should always cast
Serum Visions over the other options on Turn 1. Additionally, you should be
pretty aggressive about cycling Manamorphose, especially when you don’t
have anything to cast. You don’t cycle it 100% of the time, but having
observed other Storm players, I can confidently say that it’s cycled much
less often than it should be.

Second, the straightforward goldfish approach is relatively simple, but
when playing against an actual opponent, things become much more
complicated. This is why it’s vital to play real matches. When playing
versus a phantom opponent, turn 2 cost-reducer into turn 3 Gifts Ungiven is
a pretty straight forward win. But while you’re usually supposed to play
out a cost-reducer on turn 2, sometimes it’s correct to play it out later
as the first part of your combo. This is one of the main reasons why it’s
usually correct to play a turn 2 Pyromancer Ascension over a
cost-reducer–because it doesn’t give your opponent a chance to sequence
their removal properly.

Yes, of course, they can leave mana up for creature removal on your turn,
but if they do so it really slows things down. The sideboard games become
even more tricky and are very hard to evaluate when you both know each
others’ sideboard plans. I think, because of this, Storm is one of the
decks where playing leagues on Magic Online helps the most, so you don’t go
too far down the rabbit hole of adjusting to your opponent’s adjustments.

How To Sideboard

I’ve included how to sideboard with Storm in a variety of matchups, but
even moreso than with other decks in Modern, the exact choices on how to
sideboard are contextual. These suggestions are based upon my understanding
of the most common sideboard plans in the current metagame, but I would
change things if I saw certain sideboard cards (or lack thereof) from my
opponents. If you make changes to the sideboard, you should definitely be
more afraid of over-sideboarding rather than under-sideboarding. As
mentioned earlier, always leave in one copy of both Past in Flames and
Grapeshot, as that leaves you the ability to just go off and win if things
go your way.

For extra fun, you can usually practice playing around Surgical Extractions
your opponents could potentially have. What this means is when going off,
don’t Gifts Ungiven for a Grapeshot unless you must, and in those cases,
don’t pass priority before you announce the Grapeshot from your graveyard.
Similarly, you can avoid getting your Past in Flames exiled via Surgical
Extraction when you really have it all and have the mana to cast Gifts
Ungiven main phase and immediately follow it up with the Past in Flames,
but Surgical is never worth playing around if it actually reduces your
chances of killing them this turn.

VS Humans:

Out (on the draw):

In (on the draw):

Out (on the play):

In (on the play):

VS Mardu Pyromancer



VS U/W Control



VS Jeskai Control



VS Affinity



VS Ironworks



VS Hollow One



VS Mono-Green Tron



VS Grixis Death’s Shadow



VS Storm



VS Burn



Gamers Helping Gamers

Because I don’t have the opportunity to write too often nowadays, so I
wanted to take the opportunity to plug Gamers Helping Gamers. Because I was
able to win a total of $22,000 between Pro Tour 25th Pro Tour Anniversary
and the Silver Showcase, $11,000 of that will be going to Gamers Helping
Gamers, with a little more than half of that going towards a scholarship
award. Gamers Helping Gamers really is a great cause that me and the rest
of my team is very passionate about, so if you’d like to learn more about
it, we’d really appreciate it.

In case you missed it, Brian David-Marshall
helped us highlight
our scholarship winners for 2018, Carter Newman and Clay Spicklemire, two
very impressive young men. Carter and Clay showed from their applications
that they weren’t only very bright people with excellent test scores –
there are a lot of those in Magic – but they also wrote phenomenal essays
which showed empathy, critical thinking skills, and maturity beyond their

I remember myself at their age, and both Carter and Clay are light years
ahead of me, which means I know they’ll be worthy recipients of this award
(we even got a

Grand Prix win

in there too, Clay!) Every year, we get a lot of quality applicants and we
hope to continue that run, so if you’re reading this and you’re going to be
a high school senior or an undergrad in college, please apply.

Plus, you get to show how you think and approach problem solving by writing
about Magic, something that will probably be a lot more fun than all the
other applications you’ll be filling out.