Hello, I’m Bryant Cook and this is my new weekly column called “Cook’s Kitchen”. Let me first tell you about myself, I’ve been playing magic since 2001 and entered my first tournament in 2002. In this tournament I found out what Pernicious Deed and Masticore with Squee do to Elves, the next round I found out what Engineered Plague does. Feeling down, I left the tournament and went home. Ever since, I’ve told myself, “I’m going to get better at Magic.”
It wasn’t until the summer of 2006 that I had found my calling as a Magic player. I began testing several combo decks across formats because my favorite deck in standard had died – Krark-Clan Ironworks. I was playing “Pitch Long” in Vintage, “Nausea” in Legacy, and my Standard deck was no longer legal. I started comparing what I liked and disliked about all of the combo decks I played up until that point, I had a list of things I wanted to incorporate into something new. Eventually, I had come up with my own combo deck. It was a creature based combo deck with second sunrise as a Yawgmoth’s Will effect. Needless to say, it was a rough start, but it was the start to something much greater. It was the birth of my pet deck – The E.P.I.C. Storm better known as T.E.S (You can read more about the deck here).
Over time cards such as Rite of Flame, Empty the Warrens, Grapeshot, Slithermuse, and much later Ad Nauseam were printed to improve the deck. I won my first tournament with The E.P.I.C Storm in 2007 at The Mana Leak Open 2. This began a hot streak of Top 8’ing multiple large events over the next few years. Then the time came for the second Grand Prix: Columbus in 2010, I really wanted to prove to myself I could make Day Two. I had entered two Legacy Grand Prix beforehand and had finished 6-3 in both of them. The day came for Columbus and I finished 7-2 Day One my own deck, good enough to make Day Two. Day Two I went X-0 day with until the Top 8 of the tournament, where I finally faltered. With my GP Top 8, and my hot streak still in tact, I felt like I was on top of the world. I finally felt accomplished with my Magic: The Gathering career.
Creating and piloting my own deck to a Grand Prix top 8 is my current claim to fame along with a few other events here and there. Currently, I’m excited about the reign of Mental Misstep ending, and the format being sent back months in time to our “Golden Age” as Adam Barnello calls it. I’m really looking forward to shuffling up my Japanese Foil Dark Rituals, and just as excited for them to resolve. Besides Legacy I also play Standard and Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH)/ Commander, I’ll be writing about them in upcoming weeks as well. What I’m actually here to write about now that I’m done introducing myself is Past in Flames.
While this card appears to be the forthcoming of the apocalypse, isn’t the “end-all-be-all”. Part of the problem doesn’t even have to do with the card itself- it’s the fact that Legacy already has something stronger and more powerful than Past in Flames with Ad Nauseam. Where Past in Flames is a dead/weak card in the early to mid-game and can create situations where it’s impossible to become Hellbent [no cards in hand] for Infernal Tutor, Ad Nauseam is a great card to draw the majority of the time, unless you’re low on life . However, unlike Ad Nauseam, Past in Flames only becomes stronger the later the game goes, because cards have accumulated in the graveyard. This is a problem because combo decks strive to win within the first turn or two of the game- not letting the opponent stabalize. Length of the game aside, the major component holding Past in Flames back is that artifacts cannot gain flashback. Storm combo is currently based around fast mana in Lotus Petals, Chrome Moxen, and Lion’s Eye Diamonds that can’t be replayed off of Past in Flames. What can be recast are Dark Rituals, Rite of Flames, and Cabal Rituals. These cards are not all broken from the get-go, Dark Ritual, being great on it’s own, is fine but Rite of Flame and Cabal Ritual both prefer some time in order to get full value of out them. Past in Flames isn’t Yawgmoth’s Will sadly, while many people like to compare them, it’s just not the same. While people may try to call Past in Flames Legacy’s “Yawgmoth’s Will” (and honestly, it’s probably about as close as we’re going to get) Past in Flames just doesn’t hold the same “Whoops, I win!” power.
Speaking of “Whoops, I win!” power, Ad Nauseam generates so much card advantage that it’s very improbable that you won’t draw a Tutor effect to find you Tendrils of Agony or my personal favorite – Grapeshot. Past in Flames requires some sort of Tutor effect already in the graveyard, hand, or on top of your deck (Brainstorm or Ponder knowledge). Without these Tutor effects, a player can replay all of the mana they’d like but the only real option without a Tutor is to play cantrips and pray to find a Tutor or Tendrils in a deck where blue mana is very scarce.
Some of you are probably thinking “Why is he arguing Ad Nauseam over Past of Flames right now? Why not run them both?” The problem is this- they are fighting for the same slots in combo decks.
The EPIC Storm
This was my list before Innistrad, now you’ll notice there aren’t too many flexible slots in the deck. The deck needs all of the fast mana and Rituals that it can fit, while being effective. It needs Tutors, Protection in Duress and Orim’s Chant, and ‘Storm’ engines. There are probably about five slots that are debatable in the main deck. These slots are the second Ad Nauseam, Silence, the fourth Infernal Tutor, the fourth Chrome Mox, and the fourth Rite of Flame (moving it to the sideboard). These are some tough cuts to make and in my opinion the only real available slot is the second Ad Nauseam. Naturally drawing Ad Nauseam will more likely win the game than naturally drawing Past in Flames. However, the card is too good not to play. My solution is not to compare it to Ad Nauseam, but instead compare it to Ill-Gotten Gains in the sideboard as a Burning Wish target.
Ill-Gotten Gains needs an Orim’s Chant to resolve against blue and an Infernal Tutor in the graveyard or hand. Ill-Gotten Gains is really only good against fast aggro such as Zoo or Burn. I can only recall casting Ill-Gotten Gains a handful of times within the last year because of the amount of blue decks in the format. Past in Flames just doesn’t care about what’s in the opponent’s graveyard; it has no advantage for the opponent. Making it a more likely fit for the storm deck. The one downside to switching the cards is that Past in Flames takes longer to set up than Ill-Gotten Gains against non-blue decks. This isn’t a real issue since the win-percentage against non-blue decks is very high to begin with. There’s also the option of not putting Past in Flames into an Ad Nauseam deck but instead building a deck around Past in Flames to get the full advantage from it. Below is a sample deck list:
Past in Flames Tendrils
3 Lotus Petal
When looking at the deck above there’s some similarities as well as some differences. The main similarity is that they’re both Ritual based combo decks that mainly rely on a single engine in order to fuel the deck into a lethal storm spell. The main difference being that the first list relies on life total and the second relies on the graveyard. In Legacy, a format where the graveyard is heavily utilized, it’s best not to make your central theme of your deck susceptible to accidental hate intended for Reanimator and Dredge decks. Both of which are very popular decks in the current metagame due to the loss of Mental Misstep. Cards such as Bojuka Bog (in conjunction with Knight of the Reliquary), Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, Surgical Extraction, and Extirpate all pose a problem. These cards are all very fast and can be used while applying pressure on the combo deck. Being based around the graveyard has drawbacks, whereas being based around life total doesn’t really have the same drawbacks. Most decks in Legacy don’t have a way to combat the card Ad Nauseam, besides playing aggressive decks. The lower the combo player’s life total, the less likely Ad Nauseam is to be successful. The only problem with this is that Ad Nauseam decks can generally go off before the aggressive decks can deal a lot of damage, because the aggressive decks don’t run counterspells.
This all leads me to believe that Past in Flames is best suited as a Burning Wish target in the sideboard and not in the main deck of a preexisting combo deck or a combo deck based around Past in Flames. If a player wanted the highest chances of winning they wouldn’t run a deck that loses to splashed hate from a few popular decks, but instead said player would play a deck that had very few drawbacks and a higher percentages of success.
Hope you’ve enjoyed my analysis of Past in Flames! Check back in next week for my next article! Until next time, keep storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource