Storm Watch – Legacy at GP Amsterdam, by Silent Requiem

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Storm Watch – Legacy at GP Amsterdam by Silent Requiem

Storm Watch – Legacy at GP Amsterdam

We all need to recognize that Magic is a game that shifts constantly, at a local level, national and also a global level. In part, this is because the card pool keeps changing, and in part it is because the sheer diversity of decks makes it difficult for any one deck to stay ‘on top’ for any length of time. Players react to the dominance of a given deck by playing decks that have better a matchup against the dominant deck, and that dominant deck then falls from favour. A new deck may then become dominant, and so the cycle repeats.

Recently, the Legacy format has had to deal with printing (and then banning) of Mental Misstep, the printing of Snapcaster Mage, and the printing of Past in Flames. It’s been a rollercoaster. To see how the format is developing, let’s take a look at GP Amsterdam.

Here’s the top 32:

Bant Aggro
Threshold UGr
Hive Mind
Ad Nauseam
Punishing Maverick
New Horizons
Imperial Painter
Bant Control
Punishing Maverick
Threshold UGr
Merfolks
Team America
Elves
Blade Control
Sneak Attack
Sneak Attack
Aggro Loam
Blade Control
Maverick
Threshold UGr
Dredge
Team America
The Epic Storm
????
Zoo
Team America
Blade Control
Doomsday Storm
Threshold UGr
Blade Control
UGR Faeries
UGR Faeries

Of course, this official list is useless. Let’s try again in Storm-speak.

Force of Will AND Hatebears
FoW
FoW
Ad Nauseam UB ANT
Hatebears
FoW
FoW
FoW
Hatebears
FoW
FoW
FoW AND Discard
Lucksack
FoW
FoW
FoW
Hatebears
FoW
Hatebears
FoW
Dredge
FoW AND Discard
The Epic Storm (UBRW)
????
Hatebears
FoW AND Discard
FoW
UBWR Doomsday
FoW
FoW
FoW
FoW

 

Nice meta. So what happened?

Well, basically, there were two ‘known‘ threats coming to Amsterdam after the banning of Mental Misstep: Reanimator and Storm. The theory was that these decks had been held back by Mental Misstep, and so there would be a huge upsurge in these decks with Mental Misstep banned. So guess which two matchups everyone was ready for?

We (Storm players) put only three decks in the top 32. That’s pretty poor. Of course, Reanimator makes us look pretty damn good, considering they failed to place with even a single deck – and believe me, there were a TON of Reanimator players at Amsterdam.

So, everyone was ready for Storm, and we walked into a meatgrinder. It happens.

 

But what more can we say about the meta?

First, there are zero High Tide decks in the top 32, and yours truly was not the only High Tide player in the room. Amsterdam was brutal on High Tide, largely because the deck was just a turn or so too slow for the meta; both hatebears and Vendilion Clique (who hangs out with his good buddy FoW) have come online by the time you are ready to go off. Equally, while FoW is a great card to fight casual hate, it is also card disadvantage, so relying on it to fight through lots of hate leaves you with an empty hand.

Next, look at the difference between the ANT list and the TES/Doomsday lists. The first made top 4, the latter two did not break top 20. In my view, they were let down by their fragile mana bases. While this is obviously not something I had to deal with myself, there were a lot of copies of Wasteland and Stifle floating around.

So this is where we are, in a fast, tempo based meta dominated by decks that pack a clock and FoW package, with the occasional midrange aggro deck that preys on the blue tempo decks.

 

Storm’s Response?

It’s fascinating to follow the development of different Storm decks on the Source forums. After a period of relative quiet, there has been an explosion of experimentation, some of it in decks that have been neglected for years. Let’s take a look at what’s new.

Goblin Charbelcher has been given a new lease on life as many talented Storm pilots look for a deck fast enough to race the hate. I’ve written about one and two land Belcher in the past, but the most recent tech is zero land Belcher. While not a new idea, people are finally starting to take Recross the Path seriously. With no land in your deck, this card becomes a super-sized Doomsday in green. If that thought didn’t just make you a little giddy, you probably have no business playing Storm.

If (and it’s a big if) this can be made to work, then Belcher goes from a deck very much dependent on luck to a deck with incredible powers to fight hate, while losing nothing in the way of speed. Assume a turn one Recross the Paths, and two cyclers (Gitaxian Probe, Street Wraith, etc) in hand. Stack your deck into:

Lions Eye Diamond>Meditate>LED>LED>LED>Gitaxian Probe>Belcher/Tendrils of Agony>everything else.

 

Congratulations, you’ve just won!

For a Doomsday pilot, that’s a pretty standard sort of play (albeit they only get five cards). However, for Belcher, it’s a whole new level of awesome. You’ll notice that you’ve got more mana than you need, so you can also put your singleton bounce/kill spell in there to deal with a hatebear  (should the need arise), or whatever effect you like to run to deal with FoW. Gitaxian Probe also helps you play around counters, letting you know exactly what you need before you go off.

Notice that the above kill is largely immune to both Daze and [card]Spellsnare. With the Belcher win, you can follow Belcher with another mana source so that you can simply go off a second time next turn if they have a stifle (you’d probably put LED in that spot if you expected Stifle, and simply put a Lotus Petal or something in front).

Short of cards? That’s fine. Without Doomsday’s life-loss, you can afford to cast Recross the Paths and simply draw into your win on the next turn. And none of this stops a “traditional” Belcher win.

Spanish Inquisition has also seen more attention, for much the same reason as Belcher (ie, it’s just stupidly fast). Here, the new tech is Past in Flames. Spanish Inquisition, especially the Pact version, burns through so many cards that a resolved Past in Flames virtually guarantees the win. And yes, you can flashback Summoner’s Pact for zero mana, so your Culling the Weak will continue to have targets.

Doomsday has also been considered for the deck, but there’s less enthusiasm for this card. Past in Flames just makes it seem so unnecessary.

At the other end of the spectrum, development of High Tide decks has nearly stopped, although Solidarity is seeing some activity as Snapcaster is incorporated into the deck. The beating delivered to High Tide decks at Amsterdam was pretty comprehensive, and I suspect that I am not the only one to put these decks on the shelf for the time being.

Both ANT and TES (as well as their lovechild, TNT) are looking at how to incorporate Past in Flames into their 75. Each player is also reviewing their disruption suite, and deciding whether to go with Orim’s Chant or discard effects for protection. Despite the fact that the top placing Storm deck at Amsterdam played discard, and the lower placing decks played Chants, most people seem to be favouring the white splash – a meta call I disagree with, especially when it leaves your mana base more vulnerable.

Doomsday (the deck) is also getting more attention. Often regarded as one of the toughest decks to play in Magic (although Solidarity and Spanish Inquisition might want some words on that subject); I’ve not written an article for Doomsday yet, so let me share a pet theory with you. Doomsday, is not so much a hard deck as it is a misunderstood deck. While technically a Storm deck, it actually calls for skills that I associate far more with playing control, so when Storm pilots (like me) first pick it up we have very little clue what we are doing. In the hands of a good control player, it’s probably one of the strongest decks in the game.

Because of this mislabelling and general reputation, Doomsday has been highly underplayed. Seeing it in the top 32, however, has convinced a fair number of players to look at this deck more closely.

That’s it for now. The meta is still in flux, and it’s not clear how many of these changes will make the grade and become new staples, and how many will be dropped in favour of something else. What is clear is that we live in exciting times, and that things are not going to go back to ‘how they were‘ before the printing of Mental Mistep.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.

Silent Requiem

Storm Watch - Legacy at GP Amsterdam, by Silent Requiem
We all need to recognize that Magic is a game that shifts constantly, at a local level, national and also a global level.

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