Cheating On Mana Costs With Stormwing Entity

Join MPL member, Autumn Burchett, as they find the best home for Stormwing Entity in Standard and Modern!

Stormwing Entity, illustrated by Caroline Gariba

Any card that says you can reduce its casting cost in some way is deserving of attention, first to see if you can get it into a range where it will be an appealing card for constructed, and then further to see if you can actually outright break this mana cost reduction.

Stormwing Entity

I don’t think Stormwing Entity is going to break anything, but I do think that it is compelling and has the potential to be a powerful threat in the right home. A nice way of approaching cards like this to see how you want to be taking advantage of them is to see how good the card appeals to you at each price point that it offers.

Smuggler's Copter Serra Avenger

If Stormwing Entity just straight up costed two mana with no conditions attached it would clearly see a huge amount of play. Two mana for a 3/3 flyer isn’t that far from being constructed playable as it is, and whilst scrying 2 is weaker that the looting ability offered by Smuggler’s Copter it is still appreciable upside that is easy to underrate. In addition to this, the prowess ability offers Stormwing Entity resiliency against cards like Lightning Bolt or Scorching Dragonfire in mid-game scenarios, and can make combat challenging for your opponent to engage in not knowing how big your creature will actually be. If Stormwing Entity costed two mana always, it would immediately become a constructed staple, so it’s not a question of whether the reward is there for putting in the effort to jump through this cost restriction hoop but rather how restrictive this hoop actually is in practice.

At five mana, Stormwing Entity is pretty bad and would never see constructed play, though it’s worth noting that the fact that it still feels realistically castable at this mana cost is something, as is the fact that scry 2 is at its most powerful at the point in the game when you’re being forced to cast Stormwing Entity for five mana; when you’re out of resources and need to be able to filter away lands and keep drawing spells, or when you want to be moving towards that final burn spell to close the game out. So the fail-case on Stormwing Entity is something you really want to be avoiding as much as possible, but it does contribute to the card at least a little bit.

So, what cards should we be playing to enable Stormwing Entity?

Opt Defiant Strike Lightning Bolt

The obvious starting point is cheap spells. The cheaper the better as one-mana spells let you get your Entity down on Turn 3, though even two-mana spells will help with your late-game Entities. You want to be able to cast these spells proactively which makes a card like Lightning Bolt more appealing than Fatal Push, and instants are better than sorceries since they get to act as ‘combat tricks’ by triggering prowess; though really, either will be just fine.

Quench Mishra's Bauble Ral's Outburst

Countermagic plays particularly poorly with Stormwing Entity both in that it doesn’t help you run out Entity easily, and in that it is hard to hold open a counterspell in the turn where you manage to resolve an Entity. Artifacts and enchantments, that might normally be good for triggering prowess in the sorts of decks that are interested in playing Entity, are meaningfully worse for not enabling the cost reduction we so keenly want, whilst expensive instants and sorceries also become less appealing than they might normally be for a similar reason. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t play cards like these, or that they’re outright bad, but they will be less appealing than they’d normally be and you should keep this in mind.

Manamorphose Rift Bolt Rosethorn Acolyte

Now we’re really cheating on mana costs! Running out Stormwing Entity on Turn 2 is the dream, and free spells are how you enable that. Manamorphose is by far the best option for enabling this since the cost involved in including Manamorphose and setting up that sequence is trivially low. A lot of other options will involve more meaningful costs, whether that be having to jump through hoops setting it all up like with Rift Bolt, or having to play under-powered cards like Rosethorn Acolyte. Whether those costs are worth it is up for debate, but the options are there.

An evolution of the Jeskai Heroic decks that were seeing a small amount of play a month or so ago. Not having access to Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion anymore is unfortunate, though you could run some copies of that card just to draw naturally perhaps. The real appeal here is the dense one-mana spell count which makes Stormwing Entity fairly easy to deploy on Turn 3, and this even slots in cleanly with the rest of the creature-base; cast a two-drop on Turn 2, then next turn use a spell like Defiant Strike or Light of Hope to power it up whilst enabling that Entity to be deployed also.

Sentinel's Eyes Karametra's Blessing Staggering Insight

There is some tension here, as running Stormwing Entity makes Sentinel’s Eyes much less appealing to play, which in turn means that Karametra’s Blessing can’t be run in as plentiful numbers as it was beforehand since it is so much less reliable at giving hexproof and indestructible without Eyes as an additional way to get your creature enchanted. The flipside is that Entity provides another much desired evasive body to this archetype, and one that even wears a Staggering Insight very well too.

Getting halfway through this article without already mentioning the card Arclight Phoenix was a challenge as both Arclight Phoenix and Stormwing Entity want incredibly similar things in regards to having a high density of cheap instants and sorceries to enable them both. Goblin Electromancer is even better than normal here as if you cast one on Turn 2 then the cost reduction it offers means that not only do your Opts and Shocks enable your Entities on Turn 3, but so too do the huge pile of two-mana instants you have also.

Arclight Phoenix Goblin Electromancer Frantic Inventory

Frantic Inventory is a great upgrade for decks like these. Both the cost reduction from Goblin Electromancer and the ability to discard Frantic Inventory to a Cathartic Reunion or Thrill of Possibility make moving past that first copy of the card much less painful, and then each subsequent copy of Frantic Inventory will offer you cascading, efficient card advantage; the kind of cheap card advantage that has been missed in this deck even since Chart a Course rotated.

Fatal Push Wild Slash Baffling End

Continuing with the Arclight Phoenix theme, I tried developing the old Temur Phoenix lists that saw some play early into Pioneer’s lifespan with the possibility of using Rosethorn Acolyte to power out Stormwing Entity, though couldn’t get to a list I liked the look of for it and decided it was likely just bad. Lacking Once Upon a Time is a painful downgrade for that deck, and it would much prefer to set up a Thing In the Ice on Turn 2 rather than use up one of its seldom free spells on a turn when it isn’t returning Phoenixes. Still, it’s of note that Stormwing Entity lines up particularly well against the removal suite of Pioneer dodging all three of Fatal Push, Wild Slash, and Baffling End, so building around the card may still be worthwhile there even if Rosethorn Acolyte is almost certainly not how you do it.

Moving outside of Standard and Pioneer, into the world of good free spells;

This strange hybrid of Grixis Death’s Shadow and the old aggressive Jund Shadow lists was born of me wanting to have Mutagenic Growth and Stormwing Entity in the same deck. You lose access to the Tarmogoyfs and Veil of Summers that you’d get to play were you in Jund, but between Kiln Fiend, Stormwing Entity, and Gurmag Angler, you have a fine selection of threats you can run out on Turn 2 regardless. Manamorphose always enables Turn 2 Entity, whilst Mutagenic Growth can enable it on Turn 2 provided there’s a creature on the battlefield; preferably a Monastery Swiftspear of yours that gets to push through for three additional damage in the process.

Stubborn Denial Kiln Fiend Snapcaster Mage

You gain some nice tools for being in blue in additional to the Entity. Whilst countermagic doesn’t often go well with Stormwing Entity, Stubborn Denial works particularly well here triggering Entity’s prowess to give you that fourth point of power for Denial’s ferocious clause. Kiln Fiend works similarly with Stubborn Denial, too, meaning that you don’t need many truly four-power creatures in order to have this potent piece of interaction at your side. Out of the sideboard, you gain access to Snapcaster Mage which lets you pivot into a slower, more controlling role against decks that are either overloading on removal spells against you or against decks where you want to be able to flashback your own removal spells.

Of course, you could just already start on the slower build from the outset. Losing access to the interaction between Mutagenic Growth and Stormwing Entity is unfortunate, though it’s certainly possible that interaction ends up being a bit too awkward in practice since you’ll often want to save your Mutagenic Growth for your Temur Battle Rage turns.

Gurmag Angler

The big thing this more traditional Death’s Shadow deck gets from incorporating Stormwing Entity and Manamorphose is that it becomes much more threat-dense. It’s much easier to grind through opposing removal spells with this build due to this extra threat-density, and getting to trim a copy of Gurmag Angler means it’s less likely that you draw multiple of them causing one of them to be hard to cast. This additional threat-density also makes Stubborn Denial more reliable as it will be that much easier to keep a creature on your side of the battlefield that enables it.

Getting to play both Stormwing Entity and Gurmag Angler is really nice too because it means that people who keep in a card like Fatal Push to kill your Death’s Shadows are just so likely to be facing down a creature that Fatal Push can’t kill. The scry 2 is potent in the late-game in a deck like this as additional lands quickly lose appeal, and digging towards your Temur Battle Rages and Snapcaster Mages is a very exciting prospect with either of these being able to completely turn the tide in your favour.

Stormwing Entity

Stormwing Entity is a strange card, and definitely asks you to jump through hoops if you want to wield this Elemental by your side in battle, but it’s a card that shows promise in the right shell and I’m excited to see how it plays out in practice once Core Set 2021 releases.

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