Why Empty the Warrens Is the Best Storm Spell in 2020
- Robert Swiecki
Tendrils of Agony may still be the most-feared storm spell ever printed, frequently providing an immediate kill. But more often than not Empty the Warrens edges out the black card on overall efficiency. This is especially true in the Legacy format of today. Let's look at why you should empty your warrens in 2020.
Time runs fast and we have already entered the second half of 2020. While it seems that results of smaller to midsized paper tournaments are coming in, we are blessed to have a thriving Magic Online community that provides us with fruitful data on a weekly basis.
At the moment, RUG Delver seems to be a great choice to grind regular leagues online. Other decks, such as Blue-Red Delver, Death and Taxes, Four-Color Control, Dark Depths, and Show and Tell follow closely. With the last couple of expansions, the format has changed drastically and developed new strategies that were able to dethrone Eldrazi Stompy, Reanimator, and Loam, which had been reigning in their respective categories previously. The format itself looks extremely diverse and seeing a resurgence of Goblins will certainly make many players happy.
To explain why Empty the Warrens is better than Tendrils of Agony in today's metagame, we have to take a step back and look at Legacy's overall progress in the previous decade. Players who recall old Dreadstill, a deck relying on the power of Phyrexian Dreadnought and Standstill, old Goblins, Merfolk, pre-Looting Dredge, and Canadian without our favourite little 3/2 flier can hopefully relate to my experiences.
Legacy used to be pretty much all about the stack. Obviously, this is a somewhat exaggerated and very broad statement, but some ten years ago it was easier to win a game by playing spells from hand than in an attempt to dominate the battlefield. The most powerful permanents hadn't been printed yet. Consider Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Young Pyromancer, Dreadhorde Arcanist, Griselbrand, and all the colorless permanents that have made Stompy great again.
These cards are still relatively new to the Legacy environment. But Tendrils of Agony was already a well-known and feared card back then. Simply put, non-permanents were vastly stronger in yesterday's Legacy than they are in today's. It is a constant process that transforms Eternal formats, but they never really stand still. Much like the Legacy community as a whole, combo players also realized that winning the game oftentimes means playing to the battlefield as well as to have another angle of attack.
Wizards have printed extremely powerful permanents during the last decade. Some of them were ridiculously overpowered like Deathrite Shaman and Wrenn and Six. That does not mean that nonpermanents were completely neglected. But looking at current Legacy decks, you'll find that most nonpermanent spells are older than the permanents — except for dual and fetch lands of course, but that is another topic.
While not winning on the spot, most of the time, especially in game one, it is close to a clean knock-out. Running out a bunch of Goblins early on against Death and Taxes, Loam, or other permanent-based strategies usually is the safer path to victory than relying on Ad Nauseam, a regular Past in Flames line, or Peer into the Abyss.
In a sense, Empty the Warrens had to grow up from filling out a supportive role, mostly coming from the sideboard, and step up to play a leading role in modern Legacy's Ad Neauseam Tendrils. Also let us not forget that Veil of Summer has made red storm spells significantly better. Some players even run Grapeshot somewhere in their 75.
All in all, many players have not been playing it in the main for quite a while, and they had plenty of success with it when they did. It seems that it has the potential to surpass Tendrils of Agony in a strategy that is traditionally built around Past in Flames and developing a strong hand as the game goes on.
Picking up Ad Neauseam Tendrils in 2020 is still a good choice. It might have lost some of its punching power over the last couple of years. Nonetheless it still awards tight play and expert knowledge of the format.
While The Epic Storm chooses to run a full set of Veil of Summer main with Defense Grid in a supporting role, Ad Neauseam Tendrils sticks to its original game plan. Here is my current list featuring Empty the Warrens main:
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