Modernizing Gifts Storm with Modal Double-Faced Cards


Nowadays, every new expansion comes with powerful cards liable to change decks that have looked the same for ages, even in nonrotating formats like Modern. Zendikar Rising is no exception to this trend. This article examines the impact of the new modal double-faced cards on Modern's Gifts Storm archetype.

gifts ungiven

Modern Gifts Storm is a deck as old as the format itself. While it took a while for Gifts Ungiven to become the premium combo engine in its line-up — essentially until Goblin Electromancer saw the light of day — the list has remained largely unchanged ever since. Storm players only got slight upgrades here and there, sometimes in the form of better lands like Spirebluff Canal and Fiery Islet or in another cost-reducing creature such as Baral, Chief of Compliance.

Zendikar Rising, however, saw the print of a big game changer in the new modal double-faced cards, prime examples being Silundi Vision // Silundi Isle and Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge. If you remember Duel Masters, also made by Wizards of the Coast — in this game you could choose to play every card as a mana-producing resource or use it as a spell or creature, whatever was printed on the card. The idea behind it was to avoid mana screw and mana flood by giving the players the decision to use their cards however they saw fit in any given situation. The goal was to have fewer games where a player can't keep up because they have a bad draw and to make the game overall more interesting and fun.

silundi vision valakut awakening

In Magic: The Gathering, on the other hand, being mana screwed or mana flooded is a risk that directly impacts the decisions you have to make while building your deck. A player has to know how many lands their deck needs. If they want to make their deck run as smoothly as possible, they need to do thorough calculations. This represents part of the challenge of Magic, and it's also part of the fun. While tossing in a handful of modal double-faced cards decreases the chance of being flooded or screwed, it adds new challenges to deck construction and especially adds gameplay decisions, which should give us food for thought for years to come. I'm happy this new mechanic will make deck building more interesting going forward, but I also think that some strategies benefit more from these cards than others do.

Why are MDFCs So Good for Storm?

Gifts Storm is a deck that wants to win as fast as possible while giving the opponent few opportunities to interact and stop you. You need a lot of different pieces to execute the combo, namely: a cost reducer like Goblin Electromancer, a bunch of mana rituals like Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, or Manamorphose, and a slew of cards to keep going or a single Gifts Ungiven. For that reason, Gifts Storm traditionally includes a number of cantrips like Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, and/or Opt to sculpt a good hand in the early turns. This approach doesn't leave much room for lands. Since you want to end the game as quickly as possible, most lists only ran sixteen to eighteen lands in the past. This made the deck quite inconsistent with regard to using all its land drops and led to many games where you awkwardly had to waste your mana and cantrips on finding lands. While it doesn't require much mana to initiate the combo, your chances of going off fast and savely increase directly with the number of lands you have in play.

silundi isle

Sure, you can cast a cost reducer off of two lands and untap for the third turn and win off of those permanents alone. But if your creature gets removed from the battlefield, you want to hit your third and fourth land as well to cast Gifts Ungiven or Fact or Fiction on your opponent's end step to refuel and to go off again on your fifth turn. There are also games where you fail to draw a creature and need every land possible to execute the combo while restricted on mana sources.

Having Silundi Vision and Valakut Awakening in your deck gives you more virtual lands, makes you mulligan less and hit more land drops. The spell side on those cards might not be as good as cards ran in the past, but they're acceptable spells that help you find the missing combo pieces or keep going for a big storm count within your combo attempt. Also, getting a discount on their mana cost via the creatures makes them more attractive here than anywhere else. The deck did include comparable spells in the past like Peer Through Depths, Desperate Ravings, and Pieces of the Puzzle. The added option to simply play them out as tapped lands means they're far better than they look at first glance.

How the Deck Could Look Going Forward

Grand Prix champion and storm aficionado Timo Schünemann had posted a first draft of the list, and I took a lot of inspiration from it. To make room for the new modal double-faced cards, I simply cut all the previously played cantrips. We don't need to cantrip for lands anymore as we hit our land drops more naturally with a virtually higher land count, and since Silundi Vision and Valakut Awakening can help turn unused cards into the missing Past in Flames, Gifts Ungiven, or the last needed mana ritual, I figured we didn't need the additional card selection. This way we can play more cards that progress our game state instead of wasting mana.

I've been a big fan of splashing green for a while, since the sideboard cards Veil of Summer, Weather the Storm, and Ancient Grudge are simply too strong and efficient not to play. So I wanted to try out a green main-deck card in Explore — which takes advantage of the higher land count and has great synergy with the cost reducers. A second turn Explore lets you cast Gifts Ungiven on the third turn and hopefully execute a lethal string of spells on the fourth turn even without access to a creature, which adds more resilience and consistency to the deck.

explore jegantha, the wellspring

On another note, using Jegantha, the Wellspring as a companion has become mandatory for me. The number of benefits this card brings outweigh the loss of the fifteenth sideboard slot by a lot, and having Explore makes it even better as you now can cast it on turn four in a lot of games. The Elk buys time, draws a counterspell, ramps you into your combo — if left unchecked — or simply wins in four attacks against opponents that are not prepared to beat a 5/5 when their sole post-sideboard strategy is to shut down your combo.

A nice trick you can do with Jegantha is also to put it into your hand and cycle it for another card with Valakut Awakening, which essentially adds "3 mana: draw a card" as text to your spell. Izzet Boilerworks increases the repertoire of neat tricks as well, as it plays nicely with Explore and also lets you pick up Silundi Isle or Valakut Stoneforge when you've played them as lands earlier but have run out of action in the meantime and need additionals spells.

Results So Far

Since I no longer play online, I only had one opportunity so far to test out my ideas, but that one went pretty well. At the weekly Modern tournament in my hometown, Rosenheim, the deck proved unstoppable until the finals, where I lost against Azorius Stoneblade in three very close games that could've gone either way. I have to admit that I faced good matchups in Tron, Dredge, and blue control. But what I realized quickly was that the new decklist requires fewer mulligans and offers more draws where you hit your first four land drops and go off with protection on the third or fourth turn, capitalizing on the strengths of the archetype and mitigating its central weakness — which is that you durdle around in some games for too long.

I'm not sure yet if Silundi Vision is not simply better than Valakut Awakening as you're often looking for one missing piece and need all your hand cards anyway. Whether Explore is the correct way to push this deck or not is a controversial topic as well. It needs further discussion and testing, since adding green spells to the main deck stretches the mana base a lot, but in theory, I like the idea and will continue to explore it further. I'm interested in your opinion too! What do you think about this quite experimental list? Have you tried something similar or think I'm completely wrong? Let me know in the comments!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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FFreak(12.10.2020 10:12)

Hmm Cards that are such a bad "combo":
Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge or Silundi Vision // Silundi Isle or ANY
Of the "old" cantrips (sleight, vision, opt) & any fetchland .....

Storm works, because you "understack" your library ... Doing this and THEN fetch realy kills the whole work of the last turns ....

IMO those 2 cards could realy work / be fun in UR storm BUT dont chancge the cantrip list , dont add fetchlands .... BUT I can see cutting 1 - 4 lands for those new tools

dxjam(12.10.2020 10:23)

I removed my 3 Sleigh of Hands to add 2 silundi's vision and 1 valakut awakening, not changing anything else on the list and testing has been doing great. Sleigh of Hands is, more often than not, searching for lands on turn 1/2 anyway so the cut seems logical. Silundi's Vision is a great card to cast at the opp's EOT before going off and Valakut's Awaking is just amazing while going off in the combo turn.
All in all these 2 cards seem like great additions to a deck while cutting the most inefficient cantrip we had.

Bajuwarenzorn(12.10.2020 10:42)

Hi FFreak,

Thank you for your comment!
You’re right, putting bad cards on the bottom of the library and not shuffling them back in is a nice synergy and helps finding the necessary cards as fast as possible.

If you want to play green though, I think you can’t fix your splash without fetchlands. Also, I think while it’s nice to know the bottom part of the library and keep it where it is it’s a overrated factor as it makes your chances of drawing good cards only slightly better.

But I agree, I could imagine a straight UR list without fetchlands and only a handful of the MDF cards being great as well.

For me, personally, green is too important to cut it again from the deck though.

Best Regards,

Bajuwarenzorn(12.10.2020 10:47)

Hi dxjam,

Thank you for your comment!
I have seen many successful lists doing exactly that! It’s definitely the safest approach to not change the deck too much and definitely make it better.

I feel I will end up at a list very similar to what you described after some more tournaments but for the moment, I wanted to push what’s possible and see how much you can exploit and leverage the new cards.

I can always go back and make more conservative changes to the stock list if my experiments aren’t fruitful. But at the very beginning, I like to push the boundaries of possibilities. :)

I also think that Sleight of Hand is the worst cantrip. Opt synergizes nicely with Remand and Gifts and Serum Visions simply offers the best selection.

Best Regards,

Knight925(12.10.2020 01:00)(Edited: 12.10.2020 01:02)

I wish they wouldn't try to overthrow/shake up all eternal formats with every standard set. The point of an eternal format is, that you don't have to change your decks all the time. A few playables ever set would be fine. All these powerfull value cards make standard very stale and unfun aswell.

Bajuwarenzorn(12.10.2020 10:30)

Hi Knight925,

Thank you for your comment!
I’m feeling exactly the same. I stopped playing Standard because it was no fun for me to keep up with the constant changes and lose a lot of money whenever something rotates or was banned. I wanted to have the feeling to do something meaningfully and making progress with my collection when purchasing and keeping cards but Standard achieved the opposite for me.

Now that WotC clearly showed their intention to make Commander/Modern/Legacy players be dependent on every product release as well they make me feel the same fear and feeling of pointlessness, I have experienced playing Standard, when collecting cards for my Modern and Legacy decks.

I fear the only way to boycott that and experience true Eternal Formats again is to play Old School, Premodern and stuff like Pre-Innistrad Legacy instead of purchasing their products that support this trend.

On the other side, I’ve been playing Gifts Storm in Modern since 2012 and only needed to add and change some cards year after year. I will keep updating my Storm and Jund deck for local Modern tournaments but that’s it for me regarding the format.

Did you have a look at one of those casual and true eternal formats yet?

Best Regards,

Knight925(12.10.2020 19:33)(Edited: 12.10.2020 19:43)

It's why I switched from Legacy to Commander, so I don't have to tryhard with/against JMTS, 100€ Tarmogoyf, 100€ Liliana and original Duals. The first couple years our commander was very casual and fun. These days I'm happy if people don't play 3 mana comboes....

The thing is, you can only play those formats, where people in your area also play it. I know noone who plays 60 card eternal that disallows the newest cards. Even then, Legacy would still be at a very high powerlevel, far away from casual. Commander was my casual choice, but they are printing so many commander staples all the time. Don't even get me started on the first iteration of companions, Arcane Signet, Command Tower, Bond lands, Fierce Guardianship, Deadly Rollick etc.....
In addition to that everyone has to put Sol Ring in every deck and the only reason mana crypt isnt in every deck is the high price.
I would really like them to stop it with all these forced auto-includes.

Bajuwarenzorn(12.10.2020 20:31)

Hi Knight925,

Thank you for your comment!

I don’t think they will stop to print powerful new cards (that everybody needs for every format) in every product because that’s very good for WOTC’s short-term profit.

While this makes the game more expensive and hard to keep up, they’re also reprinting a lot of relevant cards for Legacy and Commander to move their new products.

Prices for Legacy and Commander staples have become ridiculous and it’s hard for new players to start with those formats but Reprints will help to drive down the prices of cards which are not on the Reserved List.

Also, the powerful new printings make the old staples less relevant which makes cards like Jace TMS, Goyf and Liliana of the Veil accessible again when they’ve previously reached 100 € each.

I’m currently getting back into cEDH and while RL cards have become soooo expensive, a lot of cards have been reprinted and made accessible again. For example, I’m very happy that Mana Crypt is put into a lot of Commander products and therefore no 200 € price tag you can’t get around anymore.

Best Regards,