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Cook’s Kitchen – A Sideboarding Guide for The EPIC Storm

Cook’s Kitchen – A Sideboarding Guide for The EPIC Storm

Too often I find myself stopping to watch someone else playing The EPIC Storm (T.E.S) at an event. I stand behind them, figure out the game state, watch their line of play, and then compare it to what I would do… they draw for their turn and it’s Xantid Swarm against RUG Delver or BUG Delver. At this point I usually have little faith left in the pilot and walk away. But to be completely fair, sideboards were initially built for the individual and an expectation of what the field of decks would look like.

In today’s day-in-age, there’s a whole lot of real life CTRL + C and CTRL + V without thought of if it’s actually the right list for that person. Sideboards are often customized for a specific match-up or event and just may not be right for the local card shop. This often leaves people clueless.

Xantid Swarm

This is the case with Xantid Swarm in The EPIC Storm. Without knowing exactly why it’s in the sideboard it makes sense to sideboard it in against decks with counterspells, right? Even Adrian Sullivan believes so, he said it while commentating on a match I was playing in. “You don’t need to tell Bryant to sideboard in Xantid Swarm against a Counterspell deck.” Thankfully, I didn’t listen to Adrian. The match was against UWR Tempo, a deck crammed full of removal spells and answers effectively making Xantid Swarm a dead card. Most players picking up the deck tend to think that blue pilots will sideboard out all of their removal against Storm. Which is somewhat true, but not entirely. The truth is that removal spells are getting better and better, making it hard to justify swapping the green bug into the deck in between games.

Decks with red are often casting Lightning Bolts. While they don’t stop Storm decks from “combo-ing” off they can often hinder certain strategies such as Ad Nauseam or Ill-Gotten Gains. Because of this opponents’ often leave in Lightning Bolt as a situational disruption spell that doubles as a removal spell for Xantid Swarm or possibly Dark Confidant. Similar things happen with Abrupt Decay for its ability to destroy Lion’s Eye Diamond or Terminus with Empty the Warrens tokens. As a Storm pilot you’re best off just allowing those cards to have less value potentially making them dead cards against you instead of relevant ones.

Where players want to sideboard in Xantid Swarm is against blue decks without removal. These decks usually include Reanimator, Sneak & Show, ‘Post, Merfolk, High Tide and Hive Mind. This is where Xantid Swarm shines. Without the ability for these decks to remove Xantid Swarm from the table, Storm can combo out without the fear of being disrupted, much like goldfishing.

Cabal Therapy

Cabal Therapy is a card that can be sided in against decks with multipurpose cards such as Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay or even Terminus. Well, I probably wouldn’t name these cards but more than likely you get the idea. I typically only side in one of the two Cabal Therapy located in the sideboard. The reason being that Burning Wish often wants a discard spell to retrieve against some of these blue decks making Wish multifunctional. If Cabal Therapy is valued higher in that match-up than Duress, consider siding out a Duress for the third Cabal Therapy.

When sideboarding in the single Cabal Therapy, I often take out an Infernal Tutor. The reason being that outside of Past in Flames, the other sideboard storm options aren’t great against blue decks. By siding out Infernal Tutor the deck now has the ability to Burning Wish for Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam. Traditionally Ad Nauseam is good against blue decks because they often lack speed. It also doesn’t replenish the opponents’ hand like Diminishing Returns or Ill-Gotten Gains.

The additional Cabal Therapy(s) also make Empty the Warrens slightly better post-board since they’re now more likely to flashback.

A time when it’s appropriate to sideboard in both copies of Cabal Therapy is against traditional non-blue decks like Maverick. Silence is pretty miserable against a deck like Maverick, the best Silence can do is somewhat prevent the opponent’s turn. In this situation Cabal Therapy can potentially discard difficult to win through cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Gaddock Teeg. Although, somewhat confusingly, I don’t believe that sideboarding in Cabal Therapy against Jund is correct. Because of the massive amount of discard that Jund plays, it’s completely likely that Cabal Therapy discards one of their spells for them only to draw another. This is a match-up where it’s just better to prevent their turn.

Chain of Vapor

But if you do plan on bringing in multiple Cabal Therapy, you’ll want to take out Silence. At this point there are still two Silence left in the deck. Normally, these become Chain of Vapor. Meaning that the storm pilot takes out all four Silence against most non-blue decks for two Cabal Therapy and two Chain of Vapor. A catchall answer isn’t a bad thing against the unknown, the opponent could be bringing in anything including Leyline of Sanctity or Ethersworn Cannonist. If Chain of Vapor doesn’t turn out to be incredibly relevant there’s always the option of using it as a storm engine.

By this I mean playing it to generate storm. What would be ideal is to cast all of the artifacts in the hand and then cast Chain of Vapor targeting one of the artifacts (Hopefully Chrome Mox was tapped for mana first!), and then you can sacrifice a land to copy the spell. Sacrifice lands to copy Chain until all of the artifacts have been returned to your hand. Bounce of your opponents’ permanents if you would like at the end.

Abrupt Decay

If the match-up is against a deck like Maverick where Duress doesn’t really shine outside of the ability to target Green Sun’s Zenith, I would sideboard in the three copies of Abrupt Decay over the pair of Duress in the maindeck as well as the third Decay over the Empty the Warrens. The reason being that Maverick lists or just creature decks in general often run Batterskull or Umezawa’s Jitte and these cards are very good against Warrens. Creatures in general are good against 1/1 tokens depending on the number, I believe that it’s a safe bet to side out Empty in some of these creature match-ups.

Another match-up where Abrupt Decay shines is against against blue-based control decks like Miracles or Rest in Peace combo. These decks often pack cards like Counterbalance or Ethersworn Cannonist making it very difficult to win the game. Well, you’re already siding out a single Infernal Tutor for a copy of Cabal Therapy but now there’s three more cards to bring in. The first card to come out is Chrome Mox bringing the number down to two. It’s acceptable to be slightly slower against these decks where they’re likely to slow you down anyway. Chrome Mox doesn’t shine when the opponent slows us down, actually most of the time it progressively gets worse as the game ensues – the exception being after an Ad Nauseam. The next card I would take out is Ponder. It’s not that Ponder is bad or that it’s even the worse cantrip in the deck, actually, as much as I Iove Gitaxian Probe it’s probably worse than Ponder. However, the deck is incredibly tight on space and Gitaxian Probe as a much-needed synergy with the two copies of Cabal Therapy you’re about to shuffle in. Thus giving it the playing time while Ponder sits on the bench. There is also the role that Gitaxian Probe plays against blue decks, the one mana blue sorcery takes away the fear of, “What if they have…?” Gitaxian Probe speeds up game-play as well as being a faster card in general. The downside is that it doesn’t dig as deep as Ponder. The last card to come out against these control decks is Empty the Warrens, between Detention Sphere, Terminus and Engineered Explosives I wouldn’t expect a horde of Goblin tokens to carry you to victory.

GrapeshotTendrils of Agony

The remaining six cards in the sideboard are sided in very infrequently as they are a part of the Burning Wish package. However, there are some exceptions!

When Empty the Warrens is sided out, typically I do not replace it with another storm engine from the sideboard. Unless, I know that the opponent is bring in Extripate or Surgical Extraction. If you see these cards and there happens to be a third game, then I would sideboard in the Tendrils of Agony from the board leaving Grapeshot as the sideboard win condition. The reason we do this is it’s much easier to naturally Tendrils someone rather than Grapeshot if you happen to draw the card, Tendrils doesn’t require a storm engine to be powerful. Grapeshot does. Most of the time after Ad Nauseam you could win with whatever your heart desires once you cast Burning Wish, this gives Grapeshot a dual role. The extra cards from Ad Nauseam will naturally generate enough storm to ping the opponent to death with the red sorcery.

I don’t believe I’ve ever sided in the sideboard copy of Empty the Warrens into the main deck leaving the board without.

Ill-Gotten GainsPast in Flames

It’s rare that the last three cards in the sideboard would ever be brought in. They’re defining elements of the sideboard! I’m talking about Diminishing Returns, Ill-Gotten Gains and Past in Flames. Like Empty the Warrens, I’ve never brought in Diminishing Returns. The other two storm engines I have believe it or not, against blazing fast aggro decks or burn I often like to bring in either Past in Flames or Ill-Gotten Gains, although, I prefer to bring in the pseudo-Yawgmoth’s Will. The reason being that it returns Lion’s Eye Diamond to the hand, meaning it’s very easy to create the “loop” effect that Ill-Gotten Gains is known for. Being able to return a pair of Lion’s Eye Diamond and an Infernal Tutor is exactly enough mana to then Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony. This gives Gains the boost over Past in Flames in my opinion. When siding in the additional storm engine, normally Empty the Warrens is the card sided out since they’re the same mana cost. It’s important to keep this in mind for Ad Nauseam.

That’s the basic strategy against most decks, it can go slightly more in depth. But here’s a list of general guides in match-ups of how to sideboard:

Miracle Control

+3 Abrupt Decay
+1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Empty the Warrens
-1 Infernal Tutor
-1 Ponder
-1 Chrome Mox

UW Stoneforge

+2 Abrupt Decay (If they don’t have any permanent hate side back out)
+1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Empty the Warrens
-1 Infernal Tutor
-1 Chrome Mox

Landstill (UWx or BUG)

+2 Abrupt Decay (If they don’t have any permanent hate side back out)
+1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Empty the Warrens
-1 Infernal Tutor
-1 Chrome Mox

Merfolk

+2 Xantid Swarm
-1 Infernal Tutor
-1 Ponder

New Horizons

+1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Infernal tutor

Team America

+1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Infernal tutor

RUG Tempo

+1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Infernal tutor

UGx Natural Order

+2 Cabal Therapy
+2 Chain of Vapor
-4 Silence

Maverick

+2 Cabal Therapy
+2 Chain of Vapor
+3 Abrupt Decay
-4 Silence
-2 Duress
-1 Empty the Warrens

Jund

None

BW/x Discard/Junk/Nic Fit

+2 Cabal Therapy
+2 Chain of Vapor
+3 Abrupt Decay
-4 Silence
-2 Duress
-1 Empty the Warrens

Zoo

+2 Cabal Therapy
+2 Chain of Vapor
-4 Silence

Goblins

+2 Cabal Therapy
+2 Chain of Vapor
-4 Silence

Reanimator

+2 Xantid Swarm
+2 Chain of Vapor
-2 Silence
-1 Empty the Warrens
-1 Ponder

Sneak & Show

+2 Xantid Swarm
+2 Chain of Vapor
-2 Silence
-1 Empty the Warrens
-1 Ponder

Painter Combo

+2 Abrupt Decay
-1 Empty the Warrens
-1 Ponder

Dredge

None

Combo Elves

+2 Cabal Therapy
+2 Chain of Vapor
+3 Abrupt Decay
-4 Silence
-2 Duress
-1 Empty the Warrens

Chalice Aggro

+2 Cabal Therapy
+2 Chain of Vapor
+3 Abrupt Decay
-4 Silence
-2 Duress
-1 Chrome Mox

There you have it a basic sideboarding strategy that should help against a multitude of decks. I’d like to note that these aren’t strict guidelines. If your Miracles opponent is crazy enough to bring in Leyline of Sanctity, bring in Chain of Vapor! Don’t just accept that you can’t beat a card when you have solutions in your seventy-five. It’s alright to deviate from the strategy as long as the circumstances call for it. But if I see a Xantid Swarm in a T.E.S. player’s hand there better be a good reason!

Lastly, this will be my final article for Jupiter Games. Writing for them has been an enjoyable experience that was extremely rewarding for me. But unfortunately, all things must come to an end.

Hopefully you will all hear again from me again someday. Until then, keep storming!

Bryant Cook
Bryant Cook on MTG the Source
BCook3289@Yahoo.com

One thought on “Cook’s Kitchen – A Sideboarding Guide for The EPIC Storm”

  1. Thanks for the articles, Bryant. The Storm Hands series and this sideboarding guide have been especially helpful as I’ve been learning the deck. I may have even learned enough to not make you facepalm 😉 Best wishes in your new endeavors.

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