It's a Storm's World
Storm clouds have descended upon the Legacy format once again. The archetype won several bigger tournaments in the span of just a couple of weeks. Which metagame factors contributed to the recent rise of Storm Combo, how do we combat the menace, and what comes next?
Storm on the Rise
Storm has just won two major tournaments, Grand Prix Atlanta and the Legacy main event at Cardmarket Series Barcelona, while placing second at the latest SCG Open. It is not a coincidence that Storm, and especially its most successful version Ad Nauseam Tendrils, does extremely well in tournaments at the moment. The metagame has shifted quite significantly it its favor.
|Cyrus Corman-Gill, 1st at Grand Prix Atlanta|
|1Bayou||4Lion's Eye Diamond||4Brainstorm|
|4Misty Rainforest||4Lotus Petal||4Dark Ritual|
|2Underground Sea||4Cabal Ritual|
|1Volcanic Island||4Infernal Tutor|
|2Past in Flames|
|1Tendrils of Agony|
|2Chain of Vapor||1Xantid Swarm||2Hurkyl's Recall|
|2Flusterstorm||2Abrupt Decay||1Empty the Warrens|
|2Veil of Summer||2Echoing Truth||1Massacre|
|Joan Hernandez Mercader, Legacy Champion Cardmarket Series Barcelona 2019|
|4Polluted Delta||4Lotus Petal||1Ad Nauseam|
|2Bloodstained Mire||4Lion's Eye Diamond||4Dark Ritual|
|2Misty Rainforest||4Cabal Ritual|
|1Snow-Covered Swamp||4Infernal Tutor|
|1Past in Flames|
|1Tendrils of Agony|
|1Empty the Warrens|
|2Chain of Vapor||2Dread of Night||2Chandra, Awakened Inferno|
|2Echoing Truth||2Tormod's Crypt||1Bayou|
|2Abrupt Decay||2Veil of Summer|
In a very short time frame, Wizards gave us Force of Negation, Veil of Summer, Narset, Parter of Veils, Ashiok, Dream Render—a card that should see way more play—and Teferi, Time Raveler among other Legacy-relevant cards. They all seem to work well against Storm, but one printing overrules this calculation: Wrenn and Six.
Chain Reactions and Coincidences
So, let us pin down the points that led to a positive shift of the metagame from Storm's perspective; they are quite a few:
- Wrenn and Six has altered RUG Delver and gave it some midrange potential. At the same time, most RUG lists do not play Stifle anymore and cut down on other counter spells as well.
- Meanwhile, the card Wrenn and Six itself does virtually nothing against Storm.
- RUG Delver and its newly gained versatility has pushed BUG and Grixis Delver to the fringes of the metagame, where they exist as secondary choices for Delver players. Both blue/black-based tempo decks have traditionally had a slightly positive matchup against Storm, since their discard spells allow them to attack combo from another angle.
- Blue-Black Death's Shadow is gone. The deck had been on a rampage for a limited amount of time, but has more or less disappeared now. Its weakness to Chalice of the Void and general lack of late-game plan forced players to shelf it again and move on.
- Today's Four-Color Control is much worse than the good old Czech Pile featuring Deathrite Shaman. The combination of less Leovold, Emissary of Trest—in the right context most likely the best hatebear in Legacy—and more Wrenn and Six plus Arcum's Astrolabe means that nowadays the grindy Four-Color Control decks are much softer to Storm than they used to be.
- Blue-Red Delver has never been this slow. Admittedly, they play Stifle and more counter spells, but the deck's real strength had always been its ability to burn face and race. At the moment, most blue-red decks are built around Dreadhorde Arcanist and adapted to the metagame shift with more True-Name Nemesis. Neither card is particularly strong against combo, especially since the Arcanist can only enable the replaying of cantrips or burn spells.
- Black-Red Reanimator is on the decline. It looks like Black-Red struggles quite a bit and lost some of its traction in Legacy. It is no longer a surprise for anyone that the deck can pull off some crazy things on turn one, and people come prepared with many answers to graveyard shenamigans these days.
- Dark Depths has drawn more attention lately. Whether it's the classic Black-Green Turbo Depths, Slow Depths with more creatures, Hogaak Depths, or Green-White Depths, Marit Lage has become omnipresent. Formerly known as one of Land's kill options and sometimes part of Maverick toolbox, the 20/20 token has been putting up some great results constantly. It's one of the most feared opponents at the moment.
- Where is Miracles? Well, I will come to that in a minute …
One can't just go to the doctor and ask for medicine to get rid of this dragging pain caused by some tendrils. But there are tools to fight Storm that you can easily incorporate into current decks and that will reappear before long. A metagame is defined by undulations and eventually the tides will turn.
- Put them under a clock. What is the point of casting Hymn to Tourach and then passing turns only to watch the combo player rebuild their hand? Proactive strategies, meaning decks that try to aggressively move forward with their game plan, need to have a decent beater at the ready.
- Play Vendilion Clique. It is one of those cards with a unique effect that can be played in any blue-based deck. Having access to the Storm player's hand is extremely valuable and when played correctly the fae gang can mess up their winning plan. Additionally, the card's body is of great relevance regarding the first bullet point.
- Play dedicated Storm hate. Most decks diversify their answers to certain strategies. Running singletons make them less predictable and prevents having multiples in hand that do not stack well: two Grafdigger's Cages or a hand full of Hydroblast are not the spot one wants to be in when facing Storm. On the other hand, if possible, one should opt for clear-cut hate cards like Eidolon of the Great Revel, Meddling Mage, or even Null Rod to combat Storm.
- Play the deck yourself. Borrow it and play it at some small tournament, play it online, or proxy it and goldfish it at home. Knowing what Storm is capable of doing is essential to fight it. Know your enemy, so to speak. The Storm player has three cards left in hand and one land in play, what can happen? Is it worth it to counter the Ritual in this situation? What could be their game plan after boarding and so on and so forth?
There already are cards on the horizon that could swing the pendulum back in other decks' favor. Miracles has been on a decline due to Wrenn and Six. But control decks are going to get a new toy in Mystic Sanctuary, which could elevate them to new heights.
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