CabalTherapy's Top Ten Tendrils Tips 6 - 10
Follow CabalTherapy through the last of his important tips for playing ANT; a complex combo deck in Legacy and viewed by many as one of the hardest to master.
Before you read tip six, you might want to take a peek at the first five, which you can find, along with my updated ANT list here.
6. There are, at most, ten people in the room.
It sounds strange at first, doesn't it? But it's true. There are usually three to ten people in the room depending on the tournament size. To be precise, three to ten people that you should care about. Playing ANT can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience sometimes. If you make the smallest mistake, it might cost you the game. Therefore, heading into a larger tournament, it's useful to think of it as a smaller local one with unknown players because you only get to play against ten people at most. Even if there are over a thousand people attending the event, everyone plays their own tournament and no matter what happens, you will only face a certain number of players; one for each round. Clearly, this is a psychological tip and has nothing to do with actually piloting the deck, but it is something that has helped me a lot to relax and take it easy instead of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of players at the event.
7. Dark Ritual is a discard spell.
Maybe the strongest single card in ANT, Dark Ritual, is oftentimes more than just a mana ramping spell. Casting it means combo alert for the opponent and while it is generally true that throwing counter spells at rituals doesn't feel great, it's sometimes the only correct play an opponent can make. Following up with a Duress can be back breaking. However, there are many situations where one doesn't have a proper discard spell ready. Dark Ritual comes in handy in those scenarios because it can draw a counter spell from the opponent, as it signals a combo turn, even though you've only played one card. Many opponents will know that ANT can easily win against one or more counter spells in one turn thus choking the Storm player on mana is quite a useful strategy to prevent them from casting discard and business spells. This tip is strongly related to playing lands properly because a ritual that is played by using the only land on the battlefield is perfect bait for a counter spell. Dropping the land afterwards and casting the next ritual – this time with the opponent having no counter spells in hand – is a very rewarding feeling and oftentimes leads to victory. At least you tried if not. All in all, don't be too conservative with your rituals. Even though they are indeed valuable, they are sometimes just the next best tool for getting the job done.
8. Know your lines.
It sounds obvious, but it's not. You can make your life much easier when you know some of the most common Past in Flames loops by heart. The generic one looks something like: Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, and Lion's Eye Diamond. This is a loop that drains the opponent for 18 life. Usually, a Past in Flames works similarly to a ritual effect and going off via Infernal Tutor, Grim Tutor, or Dark Petition and discarding Past in Flames to Lion's Eye Diamond's cost achieves the same thing. Not having to count mana and storm too much during matches is advantageous because it not only makes your play smoother and more confident but also doesn't reveal that you play a combo deck that is linked to an extensive thought process and counting. You can do it the good old-fashioned way by simply writing a couple of possible lines on a sheet of paper, which I highly recommend because the brain already processes information while writing actively. This way you can always try to memorize lines while also having a convenient list you can add new lines too.
9. Preordain > Ponder > Brainstorm
Cantrips are the glue that keeps the deck together. Generally speaking, the correct and generic order to play cantrips is: Preordain, then Ponder, then Brainstorm. Preordain is a decent cantrip that ensures that two cards that got scry'd to the bottom of the library will not resurface again; at least not before fetching a land or casting a tutor effect. Ponder manipulates the top of the library well and lets you see a substantial amount of cards when paired with Preordain. Brainstorm is surprisingly the weakest card among the three because of its rather poor way to look for cards without a fetchland. While there are exceptions to this cantrip order, having Preordain in first position, Ponder in second that serves as a small tutor spell sometimes, and Brainstorm, which can change a hand completely, in third, is rarely a bad idea.
10. Know your opponents and study carefully.
This last tip on my list might also be the most important one. In a format as wide and open as Legacy where basically everything can happen, it is impossible to know all the possible decks you might encounter during a tournament. Well, that sounds like a done deal then, right? Combo players, in particular, have to deal with a plethora of hate cards ranging from classic bears and permanents like Ethersworn Canonist, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Chalice of the Void, and Trinisphere to more reactive hate pieces like Surgical Extraction and Mindbreak Trap, and even to fringe spells like Warping Wail, Leyline of Sanctity, and Lost Legacy.
It is a necessity to know which deck plays which hate pieces and consequently how to board against them; and most importantly how to play against them. Mike Flores's legendary article "Who's the Beatdown", states that decks have to assign their roles correctly in specific match ups in order to win games and that misassignment of roles leads to losses. Playing Storm and expecting certain hate and acting accordingly forces players to commit to game plans that, in the end, can decide games. It is a never-ending learning process, but it also defines ANT as the complex combo deck it is and it's what makes the deck so rewarding. Let me know your own tips and tricks with ANT below and I hope these hints help you storm off better in the future!
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