Storm at the WMCQ

Last week I went to the World Magic Cup Qualifier at Toy Wiz in Nanuet, NY. Why? It wasn’t that far from New York City, and it was just the right level of importance. Important enough that it was worth going to, but not important enough that I felt the need to find and play the optimal deck. So I sleeved up my trusty Storm deck and set off for glory. Glory, in this case, meaning getting on the 6 train at Canal Street around 7:30 AM, then transferring to the 4 train and taking it to the very end of the line at Woodhaven in the Bronx. There the amazing Craig Wescoe picked me up, along with Gabe Carleton-Barnes, and we were off!

For about five minutes.

“Where is the World Magic Cup this yeah anyway?”

“It’s in Rotterdam, the week after the GP.”

“Uhhhh. What? Craig, can you pull over for a minute or two, I might be going back home.”

I’m actually going to Grand Prix Rotterdam this year, so what’s the issue? I’m only going because I have to be in London on November 17th for a conference. Was it possible that the WMC was on the one day that I absolutely could not make it? After a bit of Googling and cursing the Wizards website, we found that it starts on the 18th, and we were off once again.

It’s actually been a long time since I went on a road trip (even a short distance one) to a Magic tourney, and I forgot how terrible and awesome it is at once. I got up at 6:30 to not play a round until after noon. Toy Wiz is a great store and it was a well-run tournament, but the turnout was huge and the there were a lot of people in the space. It reminded me of my old days grinding PTQs and going to local tournaments many years ago. Unfortunately, I picked up my second loss in round 8 (of 9) and didn’t make the Top 8, but it was a lot of fun.

The highlight was beating Worlds semifinalist and Gamers Helping Gamers scholarship winner Oliver Tiu in round 4. It was my first time playing vs. a GHG winner at a tournament, and also the first winner who might be better than me at Magic right now. He sat down and led with:

“Yeah I don’t think I have much of a chance here.”
“Oh really, are you playing Scapeshift?”
“Yup.”

The games went about as expected. The lowlight was losing 7 consecutive Delver flips with 32 spells in my deck to pick up my first loss. I drew Delvers 2 and 3, 2 lands, and 3 Thing in the Ice before my first spell, which was sadly too late.

Wait a second? Delver? Of Secrets?

I thought you were playing Storm?

That was the interesting thing this weekend. Storm is a situationally great deck, and it’s sometimes hard to know if the situation is right. I keep hearing about the Dredge-inspired graveyard hate and I decided to opt out of the graveyard hate game. I’d been having a lot of success online with a transformational sideboard, and I settled on 4 Lightning Bolts, 4 Thing in the Ice, 4 Delver of Secrets, and 3 Empty the Warrens. The thing with Storm is that half the time you don’t even know if your sideboarding is really helping or not, and this made it easy—either you sideboard all the way or barely at all. Take out your graveyard cards, a couple Rituals, and some Probes or Thought Scours, and then throw in your whole sideboard. After game 2 you can leave in the creatures or go back to your main deck, depending on what you see out of your opponent/how they seem to react to your plan.

Do they go scrambling for the sideboard immediately? Did you see half their deck and no graveyard hate? Go back to the main deck. Did you see Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace? Stick with the creatures.

In the tournament itself, I went 0-3 in games with my transformational sideboard. I think I lost only 2 or 3 games total with my game 1 configuration. Why? I saw almost no actual graveyard hate, I drew well, and I had favorable matchups. So what did I learn?

I learned that a sample size of 3 wasn’t much, and I’d probably fall back on my online experience as more meaningful. I think Thing in the Ice and Empty the Warrens are likely very good sideboard cards. Lightning Bolt is too, but we already knew that. Delver of Secrets? Not so much. I think it’s just not quite impactful enough, but I don’t know what I’d play in its place. I tried Young Pyromancer and was underwhelmed. Monastery Swiftspear is attractive, but probably not better than Delver. Kiln Fiend isn’t that attractive either. If anyone has another high impact sideboard creature, I think that would be the final piece.

In terms of the main deck, it hasn’t changed at all from the Taking Modern by Storm article I wrote a few years ago. You should read it now, as it goes far more in depth on how to play the deck properly. Just do me a favor and ignore that part where I predict a banning. Maybe the CFB editors can go back and edit that part out.

Here is the list:

Storm

There will be a change with Kaladesh. 4 Spirebluff Canals will be added to the deck, likely at the expense of 1 Steam Vents, 1 Misty Rainforest, and 2 Shivan Reefs.

I still think Storm is a worthwhile deck to play—it is one of the most polarized decks in Modern. There are many decks against which it almost can’t win, and a number of sideboard cards it simply cannot beat. So if you judge your metagame well you can get rewarded, and if you judge it poorly—well, there’s always next week.

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