(Editor’s Note-

Welcome to a Special Feature Friday here at GDC!  We’re going to step outside the usual schedule today to put up an article by our good friend Imshan (of Commandercast.com fame.) 

Tonight I’m going to break from the mold to let Imshan talk a little bit about Storm and its applications in our beloved format.  I know you all know my usual stance about combo in EDH, and there are some options in here that I can’t quite personally come to terms with.  But this isn’t your typical two-card immediately-end-the-game monster; it’s really pretty cool and wildly random.  You get some epic occurrences, but it doesn’t feel broken.  It’s a deck built around a mechanic, rather than a deck built to combo off. 

He showed me the decklist the other day and it really piqued my curiosity, so I wanted to throw it up on the site for people to take a look at something a little different.  I’ve got a storied background of playing Storm combo in Vintage, so I thought it’d be a great way to end the week.

I hope you all enjoy it, and we’ll see you Monday.

—>Cass)

Hello everyone! For those who dont play competitively, Storm combo is a thing of weirdness.  Storm itself is a keyword on a select few spells that causes the spell to copy itself based for each spell cast previously in the turn.  In sixty card competitive formats, it involves playing a large number of Dark Ritual effects, usually occasionally with cards like Yawgmoths Will and Past in Flames to inflate the storm count, and then after nine such spells, casting Tendrils of Agony.  Falling short of nine spells, especially in the first few turns, warrants a quick and dirty Empty the Warrens to win, though not immediately.

Storm is pretty rare in Commander because the singleton nature of the format prevents a certain amount of redundancy in your Dark Ritual, Seething Song, and Rite of Flames, and partly because casting a lethal Tendrils of Agony is nearly impossible.  Youd have to cast 19 spells in a turn, which would be an incredible feat even if you could play multiple copies of your rituals.  When you do see Storm combo, it is usually on the back of something infinite, like Palinchronwith High Tide, or some flavour of Animar, Soul of Elements and Cloudstone Curio with morphs.  Still more rarely, players will try to force the traditional Ritual route for storm, and use cards like Intuition and graveyard play to make it work.  For the most part, Storm combo in EDH comes in two flavours: fair, and tremendously weak in the case of rituals and recursion, and unfair, in the case of Palinchron and friends.

With the release of Return to Ravnica, there is a new flavour of storm.  Every Johnny out there noticed Epic Experiment immediately when it was spoiled. It can give a tremendous number of ‘free’ spells, it can create hilarious card combinations on the fly, and perhaps most importantly, its hilariously random. 

A New Engine for Storm

What does all this have to do with Storm?  Where the two methods discussed before operate on the basis of actually casting a bunch of spells, Epic Experiment will not only cast whatever spells you happen to have coming up, but will also count each of these spells for Storm, but could also cast the spell with storm in the process.  From a rules standpoint, the resolution with of an Epic Experiment with a Storm card revealed is complicated, but, it essentially resolves all the copies of the Storm spells first, and then resolves the revealed spells from Epic Experiment in an order and with targets you choose before you resolve any Storm copies.

Initially while playing Epic Experiment, my goal was to cause as much chaos and hilarity as possible, which I had written an article about shortly after the Ravnica pre-release weekend.  The first deck did marvelously; sparing the details, I managed to empty my library of cards through a non-infinite combo, kill all opponents but one, and then promptly lost when I failed to draw a card next turn (which, incidentally, was an extra turn from Temporal Mastery).  Ive played a few more games, and this is my resulting work in progress:

General:
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Creatures:

Trench Gorger

Glen Elendra Archmage

Daring Apprentice

Sphinx of Lost Truths

Spellbound Dragon

Nivix Guildmage

Solemn Simulacrum

Talrand, Sky Summoner

Guttersnipe

Dominus of Fealty

Dreamscape Artist

Mercurial Chemister

Hypersonic Dragon

Charmbreaker Devils

Spellskite

Artifacts:

Izzet Signet

Mana Vault

Worn Powerstone

Sol Ring

Thran Dynamo

Lightning Greaves

Runechanters Pike

Instants:

Pongify

Seething Song

Fork

Reiterate

Reverberate

Twincast

Increasing Vengeance

Spell Crumple

Hinder

Muddle the Mixture

Counterflux

Cyclonic Rift

Evacuation

Mystical Tutor

Long-Term Plans

Fireminds Foresight

Fire//Ice

Izzet Charm

Beacon of Destruction

Sorceries:

Epic Experiment

Mana Severance

Merchant Scroll

Personal Tutor

Compulsive Research

Deep Analysis

Shattering Spree

Vandalblast

Blasphemous Act

Mizzium Mortars

Aftershock

Temporal Fissure

Minds Desire

Ignite Memories

Temporal Mastery

Mystic Retrieval

Planeswalker:

Chandra, the Firebrand

Lands:

Command Tower

Volcanic Island

Steam Vents

Sulfur Falls

Shivan Reef

Cascade Bluffs

Izzet Guildgate

Caldera Lake

Terramorphic Expanse

Evolving Wilds

Desolate Lighthouse

Boseiju, Who Shelters All

High Market

14 Island

13 Mountain

So, how does this list work?  First is to get a lot of mana, via artifacts or land drops.  If possible, Mana Severance or Trench Gorger should be cast first to exile all lands from your library.  This sounds scary at first, but in time youll be more comfortable with it, and even enjoy it.  The next step is to cast Epic Experiment, with free or cheap countermagic backup from Glen Elendra Archmage, or Daring Apprentice.  If youve managed to exile all your lands, so much the better, you will hit more sorceries and instants in the cards off the top with all the lands gone.  Then, resolve your spells, and with a bit of luck, you’ll generate crippling or lethal board positions with the sheer number of spells being resolved, plus a spell with Storm.  Storm need not, and will probably be not your only way of winning, either. Guttersnipe, Talrand, general damage, and simple creature attacks can all go far. A Miracled Temporal Mastery subjected to copies could also hand you a creature victory.

By far, the most effective play I’ve made is to copy Epic Experiment, and chain into more instant spells that can copy the original experiment. This way, you can continue to add to the number of spells cast for the Storm mechanic, and increase the likelihood of hitting one of your cards with Storm.  Moreover, the experiments become iterative; you get to cast all the spells from one experiment before moving on to the next copy.  This means that a tutor that places a card on top of your deck, like Mystical Tutor can strategically position a spell with Storm into the next experiment.

For my specific list, the real business lies in the three Storm spells: Temporal Fissure, Ignite Memories, and Minds Desire.  Each of these has the potential to cripple opponents, kill them outright through direct damage, or to advance my own board state beyond control.  Theres not much more to say about them, except that the more copies of Epic Experiment cast, the greater the number of Storm copies there will be when you do reveal a threat.

Beacon of Destruction serves its own special purpose; it prevents me from decking myself as I did in the first game I played with this deck, and interacts with Minds Desire through the ability to cast and shuffle itself back into my deck before the next copy of Minds Desire.  If I am out of cards, Beacon of Destruction can be placed back in my deck for each copy of Minds Desire, resulting in large amounts of damage.

Finally, Fireminds Foresight is a powerful tutor which can enable this deck in short order, and its presence largely justifies the inclusion of Merchant Scroll alone.  What you will exactly tutor for varies, but generally involves taking a Mystical Tutor to find Epic Experiment and one of two packages of two and three cost instants.  The first is a copy effect for Epic Experiment, like Fork and a Long-Term Plans to set up a future storm spell.  The second is Increasing Vengeance with Seething Song. The second package produces 15 red mana for an initial 5 mana investment; simply play Seething Song, copy it with Increasing Vengeance, and when the copy resolves, spend the five red mana just created to flash back Increasing Vengeance targeting the original Seething Song, copying it another two times.  With 15 mana available, a significant Epic Experiment with a copy spell is well within reach.

There are quite a few options not in this particular list.  There are a few on cast creatures like Charmbreaker Devils that can get a heap of bonus power, and swing for damage once your instants and sorceries from an Epic Experiment have moved blockers away.  Wee Dragonauts, Kiln Fiend, and Leering Emblem all provide opportunities for quick damage in the combat phase.  Sphinx-Bone Wand, while mana-intensive, could lay serious damage against a table of targets.

The Finer Points of Rules

Epic Experiment has its own rules quirks.  If you cast an Experiment, the instants and sorceries are cast as part of the Experiments resolution, at which point the Experiment leaves the stack.  Sadly, this means that a lone Experiment with no copies that turns up a Fork cannot copy itself; by the time the Fork resolves, Epic Experiment is gone, and is no longer a valid target.  To this end, to chain Experiments together with copies, you must copy the initial spell; that way the original remains to be copied by a freshly flipped Fork, Twincast or Reverberate.  Since casting the revealed spells is also part of Epic Experiments resolution, Storm triggers happen after all the spells from the latest Experiment have been cast; regardless of the order they appear, they are all cast and all count towards the number of spells cast in the turn for Storm.  Further, all the copies of spells generated by Storm resolve before the Experiments spells.

Storm itself is quite complex in terms of rules.  The first thing to know about Storm is that the copies the mechanic creates cannot generally be countered.  The Storm triggered ability triggers upon the casting of the spell with Storm, and no player can counter the spell before the Storm trigger runs wild.  It can be stopped with Stifle, Trickbind and a few others, but you generally wont see these.  This is good news for us; during an Experiment, it is perfectly viable to resolve all the copies of a Storm spell, and to target the original with a revealed Spell Crumple or Hinder, putting it back in the deck for reuse, especially if there is a tutor in the revealed group, or a shuffle effect like Mana Severance.  The second thing is that generic spell copies do not count toward Storm because they are not cast; a heavily replicated Shattering Spree will only add one to the Storm count.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This deck is not without its problems.  Thus far, its slow.  Really slow.  With so many combo pieces, its easy for the deck to be bloated, and not contain much mana acceleration or card draw.  This deck was initially built to be a Ravnica Izzet theme deck to replace my ailing Intet pile, though the first game with it showed that it could be much more.

One of the first options is to add green: by playing Riku or Intet, you can use sorcery-based mana acceleration like Explosive Vegetation or Cultivate which serve to accelerate into a large Epic Experiment while simultaneously removing lands so they are not flipped by the Experiment.  It helps that these spells are sorceries and instants, making them passable cards to reveal with an experiment.

Second, its not terribly reliable.  Once it casts an Epic Experiment, its quite effective, but often reaching that point is hard.  By adding black, more tutors could become viable, and we would suddenly have access to Tendrils of Agony.

Finally, there are options in just red and blue.  Many combo lists skimp on answers and use cantrips such as Preordain, Ponder and Brainstorm to dig for their combo pieces.  These are considerations for my own list, along with Djinn Illuminatus, who can create an immense advantage all on its own.

So, with all that in mind, eschew (most) of those rituals, and put your Palinchrons back in your binders.  Theres a new, fun, and (largely) random storm combo deck to be played, and it can only get better from here.

Thanks for reading.

Imshan is a weekly author and lead editor for CommanderCast. Check out his column, Generally Speaking, at http://bit.ly/SR0gy8.  You can contact him by email at: ipoolar@hotmail.com and follow him on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/generalspeak His inmost wish is that Kamigawa block legends were more playable.