My Past in Frames: Memories of the December NELC by Si Ning Li
The deck can kill on turn one. It can kill through multiple copies of Force of Will. It can win through Counterbalance. It can get hit with discard turn one and two and win on turn three. It can bring horror to your opponent’s face when they realize that they’re going to die before their hate cards become relevant. It can beat Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, it can beat Mindbreak Trap, and it can win on a mulligan to 4.
I’m talking, of course, about The Epic Storm combo deck, a deck engineered by Bryant Cook to be both fast and resilient:
The downside to this deck, however, is that it is very complicated. Lines of victory are very convoluted. If you take this to a tournament cold, you will most likely spend 5 minutes in your very first game trying to count mana and storm, wondering what the heck to fetch with Burning Wish. Even for skilled pilots, the decision trees have so many branches that it is difficult to play many matches without making a single mistake.
Frame 1: Ning as he opens his packs
None-the-less, I decided to jam this at the December “Duel for Duals” Legacy tournament at Jupiter Games. I drove up from Ithaca with Connor Robinson, who was on the fence about which of his two legacy decks to play that day, before arriving at the event site and figuring out that it didn’t matter. He opened his backpack up and realized that it contained books and homework instead of Magic cards and deck boxes. A downgrade, of course. Just kidding, stay in school, kids! I hand Connor RUG delver so he doesn’t have to do homework all day and we fill out our deck registration sheets. We still had time to kill after that, so three other guys and I ended up drafting the cube I brought. In the first pack I opened Ancestral Recall, and in the third pack I opened Sol Ring.
Before we know it, pairings are posted and we’re off to the races!
Frame 2: What my round 1 opponent wants to turn me into
Round 1 against Zombies
My opponent is a nice gentleman who admits that he is sort of new to legacy, and he opens on swamp, Gravecrawler.
I go down to 12 from two attacks and a Geralf’s Messenger before I have enough resources to cast Ad Nauseum with a land untapped and an unused lotus petal in hand. It reveals enough mana for me to cast Burning Wish into a lethal Tendrils of Agony. He showed me a white/ black land that wasn’t a dual land, and I wondered if it was just for Lingering Souls or if Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was sneaking up on me. I decide to just board in the Cabal Therapies, as they are the most flexible in the hate that they answer.
In game two, my opponent plays Gravecrawler, and then Bloodghast. I Ad Nauseum from 14 life with an unused Lotus Petal in play, and it reveals enough resources to cast Burning Wish into Tendrils of Agony.
Standing after Round 1: 1-0-0
Round 2 against U/W/R Counterbalance / Rest in Peace control
We split the first two games in long, drawn out battles where he danced around my discard spells trying to resolve Counterbalance. In one game, he did, and I lost. In the other game, he didn’t, and I won through a lethal Tendrils of Agony.
Game three was a spicy one! I am able to Empty the Warrens for 14 goblins the turn before he plays Counterbalance, only to have it answered by Energy Field. While I sit and try to figure out a way to get rid of it, he plays two Sensei’s Divining Tops and Counterbalance. I am unable to draw one of the two Abrupt Decays that I boarded in, and I draw Lion’s Eye Diamond, Silence, and Cabal Therapy. I’m under a lot of pressure from the clock, and I keep tanking on his turn to figure out how to get rid of his Energy Field.
On a crucial turn, I draw Burning Wish and I realize that I have to try and go for it. I use Cabal Therapy, Silence, and Lion’s Eye Diamond and he responds by putting his Top on top of his library to counter the first two. When I cast Burning Wish, he goes into the tank. He accidentally reveals Misdirection before reconsidering. He can’t cast a counterspell in his hand, or Energy Field will be destroyed. He needs a card of his top three with converted mana cost two to counter it. Luckily, he doesn’t have one. I fetch Hull Breach and destroy his Counterbalance. This makes him sacrifice his Energy Field as well, and I attack him down to 6 life. On his turn, he fetches twice down to 4, and casts Detention Sphere, exiling all my goblin tokens. We then play draw/ go for a couple of turns.
Time is called in the round. On turn 4, my turn, I am forced to cast Burning Wish into Time Spiral with 5 lands in play. We both shuffle up and draw our new seven, and mine is a cantrip heavy hand. Luckily, my 5 untapped lands allow me to craft a solid hand. I brainstorm, leaving an Ad Nauseam at the top of my library and leaving me with 2 Dark rituals and a Burning Wish in hand. He plays Vendilion Clique in response to the first Dark Ritual, and makes me ship the Burning Wish. I draw Ad Nauseum and cast it! From 12 life, it reveals enough to Tendrils my opponent. What a game!
Standing after Round 2: 2-0-0
Frame 3: Ning’s reaction to Emrakul being cast
Round 3 against 12 post
My hand on the draw contains a lot of rituals and some cantrips. I cast 3 cantrips in the first three turns, but fail to find a tutor. Meanwhile, my opponent casts Primeval Titan into Emrakul. I lose.
The hate of choice for this deck seems to be Flusterstorm and Mindbreak Trap, so Silence is golden post-board. In game two, I make my opponent discard a Mindbreak Trap before I Ad Nauseum from 19 life. It reveals, many, many rituals and LED’s, and I decide to have some fun and end up casting Past in Flames, recasting all my rituals, and casting Grapeshot for a storm of 32.
In game 3, my opponent Brainstorms a Mindbreak Trap to the top of his library in response to a discard spell and floats it there using Sensei’s Divining Top. He gains life with Glimmerpost. It takes me a couple turns before I am able to find a Silence to go along with the Ad Nauseum and rituals in my hand but when I do, Ad Nauseum again delivers enough for me to cast Past in Flames, generate 20+ storm, and Tendrils him to death from 32 life.
Standing after Round 3: 3-0-0
Round 4 feature match against Esper Stoneblade
I’m playing Hank Meade, a friend of my friend Henry Decker, who pilots an awesome mono-red Sneak Attack deck with Worldspine Wurm, Emrakul, and Griselbrand.
He casts Inquisition of Kozilek turn 1 on the play. He sees: Lion’s Eye Diamond, Chrome Mox, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish, Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Gitaxian Probe. That’s right, a no-lander. He takes Lion’s Eye Diamond. On my turn, I draw a fetch land. I cast Gitaxian Probe and see: Brainstorm, Sword to Plowshares, Jace, the Mindsculptor, and lands. I cast Chrome Mox imprinting Infernal Tutor, Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Burning Wish, Empty the Warrens for 14 goblins. The game lasts maybe 3 minutes?
In game two, my opponent mulligans and Duress reveals: Marsh Flats, Island, Glacial Fortress, Brainstorm, Engineered Explosives. I make him discard brainstorm, and he doesn’t draw enough gas to stop me from casting my spells in a tutor chain to cast Tendrils of Agony with no storm engine.
Standing after Round 4: 4-0-0
Round 5 against U/W/R Counterbalance / Rest in Peace control
I’m playing against Joey, a nice guy who is a Jupiter regular. The games go much like round 2, where Counterbalance is the key card, and we both spend resources fighting over it. We split the first two games, and in the third game, I am able to spend my second turn casting Abrupt Decay on his Counterbalance and then untap, cast Ad Nauseum for the win on my turn.
Standing after Round 5: 5-0-0
Round 6 ID
Round 7 ID
Final Swiss Standings 5-0-2
Frame 4: Ning as he realizes he’s made top 8
Bryant Cook and Joey were both on the bubble in the last couple rounds, and I was happy to see them win their matches and squeak in to the top 8. “Big Red” Henry also made it, as well as an assortment of Nic Fit and Junk Decks.
My girlfriend Hannah arrives with enough time to grab some food, and I manage to impress her with a prompt 0-2 loss in the first round of top 8. Her commentary: “It didn’t seem like you had many cards in your hand.”
Frame 5: Ning’s reactions to his hands in the top 8
I played Kevin, a great guy playing Burning Wish Scapeshift Nic Fit. Mulligans and tight play from Kevin destroyed me, as I did not do much other than draw a card, play a land, and think, “Gee Wilikers this is bad!” on each of my turns.
Congratulations to Bryant Cook on winning the event, and hope to see everyone in January!