For this time I decided to take all of you for a spin through time and take a look at how Storm combo has evolved in Modern. Yes I will only cover Modern, doing Legacy and Vintage also would just be a nightmare, so for now let’s focus on Modern! Maybe I’ll cover Legacy and Vintage later on. Oh and this is going to be one heck of a long article so grab that popcorn and settle in!
Storm has a very, very spicy history and this also applies to Modern, it has seen more bans than any other deck in Modern so far, yet has always managed to keep hanging in there, and even getting better. It is also one of those archetypes that always gets a very strong response from players. Some people (like I) absolutely love it and play it, others absolutely hate it and don’t enjoy the non-interactive game plan when they get combo killed and just having to watch it. In fact Mark Rosewater has created the “Storm-scale” as a way to determine what mechanics might get a reprint in the future, 1=very likely/10=very unlikely. Storm is at 10 so that probably tells enough how Wizards sees the Storm archetype.
Anyhow, through all these years Storm has always had the same plan, cast a bunch of spells, generate mana and draw cards to eventually cast the Storm-spell for the kill. The cards of course vary from format to format and Modern Storm has seen loads of different cards, we will go over them in a second.
Before we get into the decklists I just want to point out, I picked up storm in 2012 and Modern was announced in May 2011, so I did not play storm at that time yet. So decklists are picked from internet, I still do my best to walk you through all the lists. Although I have watched Modern Storm very closely but I just wanted to point that out. Well enough chatting, let the journey begin!
Moderns first Pro Tour happened in September 2011. Storm was a part of the format right from the get-go, the first actual decklist I could find comes from August 2011, just a month before the Pro-Tour. The list is from Magic-Online by the user SilverRocket, taking Storm to an undefeated finish in a daily event. This build works as our “baseline” for what Storm decks were back in the day.
So as you can see, the list is quite different to what we are used to seeing. But the foundation is very straightforward: 20 cantrips, these are Serum Visions, Preordain, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe and Manamorphose, some rituals: Seething Song and Rite Of Flame. Then Grapeshot to finish the opponent off. You do also have Lightning Bolts to get there and they do also remove creatures if you need to. However the main engines for the deck are Pyromancer Ascension and Pyromancer’s Swath. They are both a bit confusing so let me go over what they exactly do.
Pyromancer Ascension is the thing that sets the fuses ablaze, basically whenever you cast a spell that has the same name as another spell in your graveyard it gets a counter. When it has 2 counters you can copy all your instants and sorceries. So in a nutshell you want to get this thing active asap, and with all the cantrips, that is not too hard to pull off. Trust me, when you start to copy all sorts of cantrips and rituals with this bad-boy things got out of control real quick
Pyromancer’s Swath might seem a bit dubious at first. It is definitely “all in” kind of card. If you don’t win on the turn you play this thing, your win becomes near impossible to do since having to discard your hand sucks. But this card does get played when you have the Ascension in play and active. Because with this something like a Bolt deals 5 damage right out the gates and it turns your Grapeshot into a 3 damage for each spell machine. So dealing lethal becomes fairly easy at that point.
One last thing to note is that this build of storm was extremely fast, it could kill even on turn 1 with right hand. It was very fast, resilient and had a strong game plan. Rite of Flame and Seething Song allowed for some serious fast-mana to get things going. And the cantrips allowed for really good consistency and staying power in the late game. The Storm deck we see today usually kills on turn 3-4 (depending how much interaction opponent is playing). So this was just crazy-fast and powerful.
At the first Modern Pro-Tour 2 Storm decks made top 8, including my fellow Finnish mtg-player Max Sjöblom. Although both lists were different they both shared 1 thing. Both dropped Pyromancer’s Swath and went with Pyromancer Ascension as the engine card, and it did for the most part replace Pyromancer’s Swath, truth be still told Swath did see some play nevertheless. Anyhow, here is Max’s Pro Tour list:
The major changes are having more interaction in the form of counter spells like: Remand and Muddle The Mixture, and Peer Through Depths as an additional help to find action. But the counters do also serve another role. Remand can be used to get your own Grapeshot back in hand by targeting the original card in the stack. This allows some kills if for some reason you can’t keep going off. Muddle can be transmuted for almost anything in your deck: Ascension, Grapeshot, Peer, Manamorphose. Whatever you need, this can get, which is pretty cool. Banefire is an additional kill card and it being uncounterable doesn’t hurt. Ideas Unbound was also added to have more card draw to the deck. All though Storm did not win the PT, it still did decent enough to warrant a ban right in the same month in September.
September 2011, Bannings
And it sure did hit hard! Rite Of Flame, Ponder and Preordain had to leave, so Storm lost 12 cards right there. Storm did have a dip for a while but like always it kept going when a new card was printed for Storms arsenal. Innistrad was released September 30, 2011 and boy was it Christmas for the Storm players I can say!
This little card, also known as Past In Flames was printed and the deck shifted towards new cards along with the bans, here is a sample list:
This list is from JohnnyHotSauce, a.k.a Andrew Shrout who really popularized Storm combo and championed the deck for many years. As you look it we see what has changed. Sleight Of Hand, Serum Visions, Desperate Ravings, Desperate Ritual and Past In Flames have taken the slots that the bans hammered away. Banefire and all the counter spells like Remand and Muddle The Mixture have also left. We all know how good Yawgmoth’s Will is, and Past In Flames did just that for Modern. Just having a card which allows you to get all that fuel back for another go was insanely powerful and exactly what Storm needed to keep running. Past In Flames also helps to fight against discards which is key for a combo deck, since discard usually is combos worst nightmare. Oh and doesn’t matter if you happen to randomly discard it with Desperate Ravings, yeah flashback has you covered there. Other than that the list is very stock and just about what you would expect from a Storm deck.
For the rest of 2011 and most of 2012 things were pretty quiet in the Storm frontier. Pretty much all the lists that did put up results were very close to the list above, playing Past In Flames and Pyromancer Ascension as the engine cards. Gifts Ungiven also did see some play, but it just didn’t make the cut. Over the next 9 months the deck did pull off a couple of Grand Prix Top 8:s, PTQ and Magic Online success.
Pro Tour Return To Ravnica
As the Pro Tour drew nearer, Storm was handed a new piece. Remember this fella?
I for sure do! Goblin Electromancer was a great addition to the deck. So what does this little goblin do for us? Well the short answer is: Everything! But in the longer note, this guy makes all of our rituals cost 1 less. For example it turns Pyretic Ritual into a red Dark Ritual. Sounds good? Yeah I thought so too! In a deck where the idea is to cast tons of instant and sorceries, Goblin Electromancer might even add you 5-15 mana on the turn you go off. As for the deck, not that much changed, it added 4 Electromancers and went down to 16 lands (had 18 lands pre bans). The core of the deck remained very much the same, check the list above for reference if needed.
At the Pro Tour Storm did reasonably well, 2 players made top 32. So nothing too broken but the fact that some of the best players in the game like Reid Duke, Owen Turtenwald, Jon Finkel and William Jensen chose to play this deck showed that Storm was a real contender and it was a huge boost after the bans had left Storm bit unsure where it would reside.
And yeah Storm lived hard, people were winning on turn 3 very consistently, Olivier Ruel Top 8:d at the Modern Grand Prix Lyon (after Pro Tour Return to Ravnica) and it saw lots of success on Magic Online and the PTQ circuit. But like every time, Storm was doing too good and the usual B&R announcement came…
January 2013, Bannings
“The DCI’s…primary goal for Modern is to not have top-tier decks that frequently win on turn three (or earlier). Looking at the results of the recent tournaments, Storm is not the most played deck, but it is among the top tier of decks. Four of the players to get at least 18 points at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica were playing Storm, and Olivier Ruel had a Top 8 performance at Grand Prix Lyon playing Storm. On Magic Online, Storm is the second-most-frequent high-finishing deck in Modern events, at 11.42%, behind only Jund. These results indicate that, while far from dominant, Storm is a top tier deck. Looking at the results of games, turn-three wins are frequent for Storm, contrary to the DCI’s stated goals for the format. The DCI looked for a card that was very important to the turn-three wins but not one of the cards that make this deck unique. We decided Seething Song is the best choice. Even with no other mana acceleration, one can cast Seething Song on turn three and it gives a net acceleration of +2 mana. While there are other options for fast mana, none appear as efficient and reliable on turn three as Seething Song.”
—Erik Lauer, January 27, 2013 Banned and Restricted Announcement.
And then this happened, while Erik does have a good point why Seething Song had to go, let’s take a quick note. Now 38% of non-land cards from the original Storm deck had gone. That’s getting pretty close to almost half of the deck. This has to be the end for Storm I thought…or was it?
Jon Finkel made the Top 16 of GP Portland (May 2013), his list:
That being said, loosing Seething Song really did hurt Storm. It immediately went from one of the defining decks in the format to tier 3. Through 2013 Storm didn’t have a single finish in a major event, though it did have a presence in Magic Online and in smaller events but that was it for Storm.
Pro Tour Born Of The Gods
Chris Fennel made the top 8 with very similar decklist, in fact he just didn’t run Desperate Ravings but instead had two Lightning Bolts and 3 Faihtless Lootings. Birthing pod was a very played deck in that event, which was very good for Storm. Jon Finkel and Kai Budde also piloted Storm in the same Pro Tour. Very little changes happened in the Storm decks and time passed on. Then at the near end of the 2014 Storm was poised to make a return with a new goodie printed in Khans Of Tarkir.
And then these two arrived
This was very dark and powerful time in Modern, Cruise and Dig were clearly the best cards in the format. Of course all the decks were taking advantage of these super powerful draw spells, U/R Delver, RUG Scapeshift, Twin, Jeskai Ascendancy and many others rose in the ranks. Same happened with Storm when it adapted Cruise. For example here is Reid Duke’s list from World Championship 2014:
Storm did not become tier 1, but it did see more play between September-December 2014, and culminating in Worlds 2014 where the “Peach Garden Oath”, William Jensen, Owen Turtenwald and Reid Duke piloted Storm combo. Treasure Cruise and Thought Scour were a huge deal in this Storm build, not only does Scour fuel your graveyard for Past In Flames, it also does give more fuel to Pyromancer Ascension. The easy draw 3 cards gave Storm more consistency, exactly what it needed. But as we all know, all good things usually come to an end.
January 2015, Bannings
Golgari Grave-Troll is no longer banned.
Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time and Birthing Pod hit the banned list while Grave-Troll got unbanned. I would not say Storm was the target for these bans, these cards were just simply too good and gave blue way too many ways to draw cards and filter better draws. So now that Storm had lost its best card draw, what now? Well for all of 2015-2016 deck just went into hibernation and no Storms were to be seen. Builds went back to Goblin Electromancers and Thought Scours, the deck did have some performances in Magic Online and it did Top 8 in GP Detroit during the “Eldrazi-winter”. And just when you thought things could not get any worse for us.
January 2017, Bannings
Gitaxian Probe is banned.
Golgari Grave-Troll is banned.
Ah I remember when I saw this on my computer screen. To be honest Probe got the hammer because Infect but it was basically game over for Storm. The instant desperation hit me and I basically gave up on the deck for good. Some time passed on by, until Wizards answered the prayers and printed…
This awesome creature alongside Goblin Electromancer brought Storm back to life. When I saw this card, I began to tinker with all sorts of ideas, after loads of testing I finally ended up on Gifts-Storm. And no, I don’t take credit for the deck, MrFrenchy and Mtg Salvation Storm-forum helped me a long way to get my build optimized! So what changed again? Well let’s take a look at a recent list by Andrew Livernois:
So loads of changes this time, let’s tackle them right away! So this time Gifts Ungiven has been added to the mix. Why you ask since we didn’t bother with it previously? Well with 6-7 cost reducer effects, Gifts is much more easy to cast! And thanks to Baral, the odds of us having the reducer in hand/drawing it go up and up. And Gifts is a super powerful tutor, it can get anything in this deck, that makes Storm way more consistent and reliable. You could almost say it is the Infernal Tutor for modern, and yes Tutor is legal in modern but I think you understood what I mean. Need a reducer? Got it. Need Grapeshot? No problem. You also have some protection in form of Remands, they help you counter whatever threat your opponent might have, and do remember that Baral gets to loot when you counter a spell. So for example Remand is basically 1 mana draw 2 cards and discard 1. Pyromancer Ascension is no longer needed, since getting that thing active without Gitaxian Probe is too unreliable and slow.
Gifts-Storm is one of the most if not the most consistent and reliable combo decks in current metagame. If you don’t run interaction, chances are they just play Baral/Electromancer on turn 2, untap and kill you. What will the future hold for Storm, I don’t know but we will wait and see!
Well, this was a mouthful (or stormful) I would say! Hope you enjoyed this article and had a fun trip through Storms history in Modern. Maybe next time I cover sideboard guide and more in-depth look at the Storm deck we have today and all the cards it has access to!
Did I miss something? Anything you would like to change? If you have any questions/feedback drop them in comments below or shoot me a message via Facebook! Stay safe and keep the weather clouds coming! 🙂