Modern PTQ Report – U/R Storm

Last weekend, I made my way down to the bustling metropolis of Kitchener, Ontario in an effort to make my way back to the Pro Tour. I fell just short of winning a slot at my last local PTQ, which you can read about here.

I felt that I was robbed at that last tournament, so I was definitely hungry for a win. Unfortunately, like last time, school has kept me busy to the point that I had no time to prepare. I reached out to some of my friends and saw that my old drinking buddy James “Jway” Zornes had recently won a PTQ with his own unique take on U/R Storm that he first showcased at GP: Lincoln. You might remember him from such crazy brews as 66-card Valakut. Jway may seem strange, but he’s a great deck designer, and based on his successes, I went with an updated version of his list:

Noxious Revival
I’ve had a lot of experience playing Storm combo decks, so I didn’t need very many practice games to become comfortable with the deck. This version is a bit different than the ones that have been tearing it up on Magic Online in that it doesn’t play Pyromancer Ascension or Faithless Looting. It makes this version a turn slower, but what it gives up in speed, it more than makes up for in consistency and resilience. The transformational sideboard is also amazingly effective, especially if your opponent doesn’t see it coming. Even if he does, what I had been doing during the tournament was shuffling my entire sideboard in and taking out fifteen cards to keep opponents guessing. That’s something that you should always do anyway, but no one ever does out of laziness—including me.

Here are a few notes about the deck:

  • Remand, while usually used to slow your opponents down, can also be used as a second Grapeshot when your storm count isn’t high enough. You can play a Grapeshot, put the storm copies on the stack, and Remand the original spell, allowing yourself to recast it.
  • You don’t have to kill your opponent right away. It’s not like you score bonus points for killing him on turn three instead of turn five. If you’re not under any pressure, you can afford to wait and draw an extra card or two.
  • Many decks can’t beat an early army of Goblins. If you’re reasonably confident your opponent doesn’t have any mass removal, making a dozen or more Goblins really early is usually good enough to win.
  • The Noxious Revival is in the sideboard to turn Gifts Ungiven into Demonic Tutor. If you’ve only drawn one half of the post-board combo, you can Gifts for two redundant copies of the piece you’re missing, a Noxious Revival, and any other card, and no matter what the opponent chooses, you’ll have the combo. That’s also the reason for the singleton Kiki-Jiki: to have a redundant copy of Splinter Twin you can tutor for.

Now let’s get on with the matches.

Round 1 – R/G Land Destruction

Game 1, my opponent started with a mulligan and didn’t do much before I combod him out. I spent my first couple turns sculpting my hand, but he didn’t have a whole lot of pressure on me, so I had a lot of time to set up. He didn’t destroy any of my lands, and when my Gitaxian Probe revealed that he had no way of stopping me, I played a bunch of rituals followed by a Gifts Ungiven to find a Past in Flames, and that was more than enough to finish him off.

Sideboarding:
+ Entire Sideboard
−4 Desperate Ritual, −3 Pyretic Ritual, −1 Seething Song, −2 Past in Flames, −3 Empty the Warrens, −2 Grapeshot

Note: You can assume that I sideboard this way for the entire tournament unless I say otherwise.

Game 2 was ugly—I mulliganed to six and my opponent to five. He started with a Mountain and nothing else. I played a Gitaxian Probe to see what was up and saw Blood Moon, Birds of Paradise, and two Stone Rains. The Blood Moon was an actual blank, and I had a couple Remands to buy myself a lot of time. He eventually drew into some lands to start taking out mine, but by that point, I used my card selection to make sure that I would not be getting mana screwed. I managed to find a Deceiver Exarch and a Pestermite onto the battlefield, but by the time I drew my Splinter Twin, he was able to keep me off 4 mana. Out of desperation, he played a Boom // Bust, but I just kept attacking him for 3 every turn until he died.

Not how I expected to win, but hey, I’ll take it.

Round 2 – Noah Long with U/R Storm

Pyromancer Ascension
The mirror was the one matchup I didn’t want to face. As I said earlier, the stock U/R Storm deck is a turn faster than mine, and this time, that loss of speed is actually relevant. Noah is also among the best players in the tournament, so I couldn’t count on him to make any bad mistakes I could capitalize on.

For Game 1, I kept a hand that had a Remand and a Gifts Ungiven. I countered his turn-three Pyromancer Ascension and set up to win on my turn five. I also played a Gitaxian Probe and figured that he needed to draw something on his fourth turn in order to go off. He made a pretty tight sequence of plays, and combined with some timely draws, he was indeed able to kill me before I could do the same to him.

I didn’t think the Splinter Twin combo was going to be good enough, but I did bring in a couple Mana Leaks in an effort to slow him down. I was once again too slow, and I didn’t draw enough disruption to even the odds.

I honestly didn’t expect to win, and I wished him luck.

Round 3 – Boros

My opponent didn’t have the most aggressive of draws, so I had a lot of time to set up the combo. He started things off with a Hellspark Elemental on turn two and a Keldon Marauders sometime after that, but he drew a few too many lands from the looks of things. I played a Gifts Ungiven on turn four and killed him easily the turn after that.

For Game 2, he again had some early damage and probably thought he was good with a Rule of Law. I briefly thought about countering it, but his enchantment just turned all of my Remands into Dismisses, so I let him have it. I instead played a Deceiver Exarch. I didn’t have a Splinter Twin yet, but I was happy to have a blocker to soak up some damage. I didn’t attack and passed the turn back. He played a Hellspark Elemental, which I snap-blocked. When he tried to finish off my Exarch with a Lightning Bolt, I pointed out his Rule of Law. I drew a Splinter Twin shortly thereafter and won.

Round 4 – R/b Burn

Bump in the Night
My hand was very awkward in this game, but it ended up not mattering. I drew all four of my Remands, but I never had a good opportunity to cast them. He didn’t play very many spells, and when he did, they were stuff like Lava Spike and Bump in the Night. When I was at 7 life, I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer. My Gitaxian Probe revealed two Searing Blazes and a Burst Lightning, so the coast was clear as long as I didn’t do something dumb like take a point from one of my lands. I won fairly easily from that point.

In Game 2, I started with a turn-one Gitaxian Probe showing Mindbreak Trap, Lightning Bolt, and three lands. I waited for him to use the Lightning Bolt to play my Pestermite, and when I untapped, I made infinity Faeries.

Round 5 – Chris Seifert with W/B Martyr

Chris is a Toronto-area player whose name I’ve heard but whom I’ve never actually met. He picked up a draw on the day, so I was paired up against him. His deck is normally pretty easy to beat with Storm, but Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is very annoying. I can still win through one, but it’s much harder.

In Game 1 Chris had an early Thalia, and I couldn’t find a Grapeshot in time to win. I made a go of it by firing off a number of cantrips, but I didn’t draw anything relevant with them.

Thalia even got in the way of my Splinter Twin plan as her ability along with a Tectonic Edge made me unable to cast my game-winning enchantment. I even had a Seething Song so that I would only need four lands, but I couldn’t draw one before I had my face smashed in.

Even though I was out of contention at this point, I did have a secondary goal coming into this event—namely, to qualify for the World Magic Cup Qualifier. I just needed to win two of my next three rounds in order to pick up enough Planeswalker Points, so I played out the rest of the tournament.

Round 6 – Tyler Hortie with U/R Faeries

Cryptic Command
Tyler is an old friend of mine whom I don’t get to see very often since he moved to the Kitchener area. I had been talking to him between rounds, so he already knew what I was playing, but I never mentioned the old switcheroo in the sideboard.

I lost the die roll, and Tyler started out with a turn-one Grim Lavamancer. I had a pretty gassy hand that was going to be able to pump out some Goblins on turn two. I saw no reason to wait, and I went ahead and made twelve Goblins, the last two of which were courtesy of a Spellstutter Sprite on my irrelevant Serum Visions. Tyler tried his best to stay in the game, but there were simply too many of the little red men.

In the next game, I made good use of Gitaxian Probe, which showed me Mana Leak, Ratchet Bomb, and Vendilion Clique. I countered his Vendilion Clique with a Mana Leak of my own and waited until I had six lands to play my Deceiver Exarch. He attacked me for a few turns with a Grim Lavamancer, and eventually a Mutavault joined the party. I drew my sixth land to play around his Mana Leak. He tapped out to counter with a Cryptic Command instead, but I had the Remand. I didn’t have the other half of the combo yet, but I skillfully drew one on my turn.

One more win to go!

Round 7

I’m not totally sure what my opponent was playing. I have to assume it was some sort of Melira deck based on the cards I saw, but I never actually saw any of the combo cards. I was attacked by a Kitchen Finks for a few turns while I tried to draw into enough gas to make sure my combo wouldn’t fizzle out. I went down to 5 life before I decided to pull the trigger. I didn’t have a ton of cards to go off with, but I used the Remand trick I talked about earlier to effectively double my storm count.

My hand for the next game was pretty close to perfect. I had Deceiver and Splinter Twin, and I set myself up to win on turn four. He had a Thalia to slow me down, but when he tapped out for a Reveillark and attacked with his legend, I couldn’t block with Deceiver fast enough. Infinity clerics!

At that point, I had my five wins, so the pressure was off for the last round. I still wanted to win the last one to pick up some booster packs for my trouble, but I didn’t actually care that much if I won.

Round 8 – Affinity

Torpor Orb
I kept kind of a slowish hand that was going to be fine against any deck that couldn’t kill me before, say . . . turn five. It had a bunch of rituals, but no card selection and no actual win conditions. My opponent played a Vault Skirge and went to town with a Cranial Plating. I died pretty quickly after failing to find something to do with all of my mana.

My opponent played an early Grafdigger's Cage in Game 2, and my Gitaxian Probe revealed that the only way he had of stopping my combo was a Galvanic Blast. I played a Deceiver Exarch to tap down a very large Ornithopter, but he had a Shrapnel Blast to take it out. I used a cantrip to find another one next turn, and I soon made infinity clerics.

I really should have sideboarded back into storm for Game 3, but this was the first actual Game 3 I’d played that day, and I wasn’t sure which combo was going to be better. I also didn’t think my opponent had any dedicated hate for Splinter Twin, so I made a show of sideboarding fifteen cards back in, but I didn’t actually make any changes. To be perfectly honest, it had been a long day, I was really tired and hungry, and I didn’t want to win badly enough.

It turned out that my opponent did indeed have dedicated hate as he played a Torpor Orb. I had a Remand, but I was at too low of a life total to not tap his giant monster with my Pestermite. My new plan was to put a Splinter Twin on it anyway and just grind him out one token at a time. As I said before, my life total was too low, and I died to a Galvanic Blast. It would have been pretty sweet if I managed to win that way, though.

 


I finished 5–3 on the day, but I still like the deck a lot. If you have any Modern tournaments to play, I highly recommend it. If I were to make any changes, I think I would go to three Grapeshots and one Empty the Warrens. Having multiple Grapeshots gives you more outs to really aggressive starts and nonsense like Thalia. The sideboard plan worked extremely well—a lot of my opponents were caught completely by surprise.

It’s too bad that I won’t be making it out to Barcelona, but I’m glad that my boy Noah Long took down the PTQ. I also want to give major props to David Caplan who recently won another MOCS and qualified for the Magic Online World Championship two years in a row.

Hope you guys enjoyed the report, and until next time, may your storm counts always be high.

Nassim Ketita