Cook’s Kitchen- Storming into Indianapolis

by Bryant Cook

Last week I briefly mentioned the banning of Mental Misstep and how I was excited to play Storm Combo again. Well some other people shared the same excitement heading into Star City Games: Open Series Indianapolis. In the Legacy Open throughout the day there were a handful of Storm feature matches that were very interesting, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

What caused the sudden success for combo for the event? Some believe that the number of combo deck present was due to the location, others think it was the banning of Misstep, play skill of the pilots, and other various reasons. I believe that it’s a combination of things, the first and foremost among them being that Mental Misstep was recently banned. I played in four major events during the reign of Mental Misstep with TES and only Top 8’ed one of them. This is unusual for me, I’m used to a much higher success ratio. I know a few others share the same sentiment. This caused combo players to hang up their boots and try something else for the time being until hopefully Misstep found “the Banhammer”. People who didn’t like losing to Mental Misstep joined the bandwagon, I certainly did for local events.


Now with Misstep gone, whether or not “The Darkside” may have gained a few new members is uncertain (I often refer to Storm and combo players as members of “The Darkside”). What I believe is that players that benched their combo decks in depressing times have now dusted off the shelf and found their old baseball glove. This event was a much-needed resurgence for combo decks; they’re viable again for the first time in about six months. The combo archetype is really a niche role to a group of players and many players can’t stand playing it or playing against combo. This is what is causing me to believe while Storm combo may have picked up a few stragglers along it’s way back to the top,  it didn’t pick up an army.  What happened was veteran Storm pilots and even a few people with less experience decided that they wanted to play Tendrils of Agony. They shuffled up their Ad Nauseams and headed to Indianapolis.

Jason Golembiewski, piloting TES to a 3rd place finish in the event, said that he hadn’t played Storm in awhile but had played Storm in the past. There was also Ari Lax, Alex Finley, and Brandon Burgoa piloting ANT lists, with Brandon’s being a Hybrid between TES and ANT with Past in Flames. What I’m getting at here is that storm is always a small fraction of a metagame, never the popular deck. It’s usually a particular pilot’s success that draws attention to the archetype, not massive amounts of players sleeving up Storm lists. Storm decks don’t usually place in groups.  In this Star City Games Open three Storm Combo decks made it to the Top 16.  This leaves me asking the question, “Why were that many Storm pilots successful in the first place?”


It’s pretty simple- not that many people were prepared for Storm Combo going into the event. Out of the entire Top 8, there was only one deck that had actual Storm hate in it’s seventy-five and it was Marsh Usary with NO Bant. Marsh’s sideboard was packing Meddling Mages alongside a singleton Gadd0ck Teeg for Storm combo. It explains why he made it as far as he did, earlier on in the day Marsh had a feature match versus Brandon Burgoa with his ANT/TES Hyrid with Past in Flames. Marsh’s Meddling Mage on Infernal Tutor carried him through game two of the round and to a match victory.


One thing I don’t believe about this event is that Storm’s success is location-based, as some people are suggesting. I’ve read a few things about how some people think that combo is more popular in certain  regions of the country due to the influence of strong Storm players in those regions. I don’t believe this for a second, any player from Texas has just as good of a chance as any player from Detroit. It’s all dedication, gold-fishing, testing, and learning the deck that you’re currently playing in and out. This can be said for any deck, but it applies to Storm even more, because knowing the intricacies is very important.


Going back a bit, I mentioned the feature matches.  There were four throughout the day that involved Storm. There was:


ANT vs. New Horizons (Ari Lax vs. Mike Hawthorne) 2-0

TES vs. Combo Elves (Jason Golembiweski vs. Chris Anderson) 2-0
3c TES vs. No BANT (Brandon Burgoa vs. Marsh Usary) 0-2

TES vs. ANT (Jason Golembiweski vs. Ari Lax) 2-0


The one I’ll be discussing is the Storm on Storm feature match. It’s a very interesting match-up that comes down to a few key factors:


A very important thing about Storm mirror matches is winning the die roll, which is out of your control – no need to worry about that. Something a player can control is trying to win game one. Winning game one allows you to be on the play if there is a game three, being on the play game three gives you the best chance of winning the round. Being on the play gives a player a better chance of being able to combo on turn two after a turn one Brainstorm, Ponder, or Preordain.  If you were on the draw in this situation, you would’ve wanted one of two things in your opening hand – The first being an Orim’s Chant and the second being Duress or Thoughtseize.


Orim’s Chant has incredible valuable in this match-up because it can practically win the game on it’s own. It provides an insane amount of card disadvantage for your opponent if they decide to go all-in and you Orim’s Chant in response to a Tutor. More than likely, they’ll be forced to grab Duress or Orim’s Chant of their own in defense. But by that time hopefully you will have drawn a Duress effect. If the game doesn’t end within the first two turns of the game, it’s going to be about a war of attrition. Winning the Storm mirror past turn three is all about in keeping cards your hand, unless it’s artifact mana – cast Lion’s Eye Diamond right away.


Now that the basics are covered, let’s break down the match.

You can find the video here.


Game One:

Jason Golembiweski wins the die roll.


(Jason) Turn One: Gemstone Mine, Ponder.


This is correct if he plans on trying to win the game on turn two, if not, if he had Duress here he leads with Duress. If he doesn’t have Duress, Ponder digging for Duress or Orim’s Chant is necessary. If he had Brainstorm and Orim’s Chant, the appropriate play would to pass. Leaving Orim’s Chant available to stop Ari from possibly going off, while attempting to assure the turn two win with a Brainstorm if he doesn’t.


(Ari) Turn One: Misty Rainforest, Underground Sea, Ponder, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond.


In this situation Ari should have mulliganed. Even if he has a turn two win, it’s most likely going to be too slow or disrupted by his second turn. What should’ve ideally happened here is a Duress or Thoughtsieze from Ari since he doesn’t have access to Orim’s Chant. Ari did correctly play his artifact mana turn one, this ensures that if he draws an Infernal Tutor he can combo out immediately.


(Jason) Turn Two: City of Brass, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, tap Gemstone, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam. Ad Nauseam. Ari looks at the massive amount of cards and scoops.


There was an error on Jason’s part- not running the artifact mana out there on turn one.  This could have caused a situation where a Duress effect taking Lion’s Eye Diamond could leave him unable him to combo for turns.


Game Two:


(Ari) Turn One: Underground Sea, go.


This is not good for Ari, another not-so-stunning hand. He really wanted to open Duress in this match-up. His hand is acceptable if he can win turn 2. What this hand does do is Brainstorm in response to Duress and hide important cards that enable a second turn kill.


(Jason) Turn One: City of Brass, Chrome Mox (Imprint: Thoughtseize), Lion’s Eye Diamond, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Ad Nauseam. Ad Nauseam isn’t very impressive, it reveals Empty the Warrens and a bunch of very unimpressive cards in that situation. He ends up casting Empty the Warrens for 28, in the process Ari Brainstorms in response to a Duress. During Ari’s upkeep, he is no longer allowed to play spells due to Orim’s Chant. He concedes.


Jason opens a turn one hand, there isn’t much to say about the hand. What can be said is he should’ve sideboarded out Empty the Warrens due to it being very weak in the combo mirror. Empty the Warrens ends up killing on turn three without the power of Ad Nauseam. Which is just a little too late for a combo mirror. Regardless, Jason is the victor. Jason didn’t really need to use Orim’s Chant as a reactive spell in this match-up because of the hands he opened, but it was there for his benefit. The match-up was in his favor due to The EPIC Storm being faster than Ad Nauseam Tendrils. TES has additional fast mana spells that ANT doesn’t run, not to mention better Ad Nauseams due to a lower curve.


I’ve found this match-up fascinating ever since I played against Ari in a deciding round for the Top 8 of Grand Prix Columbus. Our match was much more interesting seeing how there weren’t fast kills happening every game. Our match was all about struggles and epic victories.


After this event where Storm was very successful with two pilots in the Top 8 and a third in the Top 16, people would have to prepare more for upcoming events. With a week going by and Star City Games: Nashville happening, there wasn’t much Storm at all in the event. The only one that was recognized was Caleb Durward’s Past in Flames list, which didn’t even finish in the Top 16. I don’t believe that Storm was hated out of the event, or that there weren’t any Storm players in the South. What happened in my mind is that players opted out of Storm combo due to the success the week before and didn’t want to fight in uphill battles against Storm hate the entire day.


For those of you attending Saturday’s Jupiter Games: NELC Qualifier, I’ll be the guy slinging Grapeshot. A tournament report is to follow next week on Cook’s Kitchen!

Until then, Keep Storming!


Bryant Cook

Bryant Cook on MTGthesource


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