Ah Storm, the mechanic that will never be Standard legal again, however is busted in Vintage, Legacy and Modern. In Australian 7 point highlander it takes some creative thinking to build a deck that can play a heap of spells and find Tendrils to win. I love the idea and I love brewing so here are my thoughts on the deck and card choices that you might want to consider if you want to brew a deck like it.
I wanted to write a deck tech for highlander storm, then I realised that Storm is Storm and if you want to learn how to play a ton of spells and win with tendrils of agony there are plenty of better people to teach that than me. What I really love about highlander is deck building and finding fringe cards to fulfil a need so that you are about to play certain strategies. This is a short break down (and maybe some insight to how my brain works) of cards to consider when building 7 Point Highlander Storm. I have broken it down into 6 sections: Cantrips, Eggs, 0 CMC Artifacts, Rituals, Tutors and Graveyard Spells (no creature section as there are no creatures to talk about).
Before we get started, you may need to know a little about me. This will give you an indication as to why I’m not taking into consideration pointed cards. I cut my Magic cloth playing Vintage; therefore the best storm deck plays Black Lotus (Four points) and Yawgmoth’s Will (Three Points). If you don’t agree with me I’d love to hear your reasons, however, I might look at you and say something along the lines of, ‘pfft sure, dude” (prove me wrong internet). Also if you are unfamiliar with the format check it out here (Australian 7 point highlander) it’s completely GAS!
Storm’s goal is to sculpt the perfect hand to set up the perfect turn. This means needing the right mix of tutors, rituals and double up/graveyard spells. The best way to do this is to have cheap draw spells that replace themselves and give maximum choice into what you replace it for, for the minimum possible cost. As you can’t jam four Brainstorm and Ponder in your highlander deck you need to get creative and make decisions on which you believe are the next best.
The best three cantrip spells are clearly Brainstorm, Ponder and Preordain (only god knows why brainstorm is not pointed).
The next tier down I starts to get interesting and will influence the way you play and build your deck.
Slight of hand and Serum visions
These are in my opinion the auto-ins. There’s never a drawback to casting these spells as you should be able to improve both your hand and the top of your deck; trying to figure out which cantrip to cast before the other gets hard with Serum Visions.
The Probe of which is Gitaxian
hmmm… is plus 1 storm good? excuse me opponent do you have good cards?????
There’s a reason this card got banned in Modern and has been the topic of discussion in Vintage and Legacy. This won’t only be cast as a cantrip in this deck but also held in your hand when you have other things to do. That allows it to be cast to add storm the same way you might hold back a mox in Vintage. The bonus! When the first spell in your “go off” turn is Git Probe, you get to find out if your opponent has a Flusterstorm/Force of Will/Mental Misstep or – God forbid – Mindbreak Trap. As a side note: this card is just plan busted!
Thought scour and Mentel note
It’s possible that these are as good, maybe better, than Sleight of Hand and Serum Visions. This depends on what you as a player value more: spells in your graveyard to fuel Yawgmoth’s Will or card choice to hand. Ultimately the difference is very little and I’m sure there will be better players than me shaking their heads saying “WTF Luke! Thought Scour is amazeballs!” and to them I respond…
Portent Telling time Anticipate Peer Through Depths Impluse
All these are good options to consider in highlander, just not for me.
If you want to run a storm deck without Black Lotus, LED and other sweet tech – get ready for some mind blowing in the next cantrip section- then they’re fantastic when combined with Boral, Chief of Compliance .
Some sweet cantrip egg action!!!
Before we start to break down the idea why I believe eggs are better than two CMC, or the ‘lesser’ of the one CMC cantrips, maybe I should answer the question, what the f@#k are eggs?
\/\/\/(your answer is found right here)\/\/\/
“oh” you say “I knew that! like the modern deck”
On face value I will be the first to admit eggs suck by themselves. They fix mana over two turns and you get an extra draw. That’s about as good as they get by themselves, occasionally that will be enough to help win. However, in tandem with Yawgmoth’s Will and Helm of Awakening they start to get amazing!
Helm, if played correctly, can be +5 mana quite easily – sometimes lots more. It becomes a bit like a build your own Dark Ritual with two CMC rituals or, in the case of eggs, build you own Git Probe with eggs. Throw a tutor spell or Yawgmoth’s Will in the mix and two eggs can easily become draw four, float BB with storm count of at least six.
However, it’s important to note this card isn’t all chocolates and roses. Unlike Baral, this effect is symmetrical and your opponent’s spells are also cheaper. Turning negate into a U hard counter is not a good play (trust me you don’t want to test that). It’s my belief that the eggs make this card good enough; it can be incredible if timed well and in the right set of circumstances; that is why I am running it. I can play Sensei’s Divining Top or eggs for free, build my own Dark Ritual and make Cabal Ritual/Seething Song completely next level. Give it a go, you may not like it. You will need to do some serious convincing to get me to cut this bad boy from the deck.
Turn 1: Sandstone Needle pass
Turn 2: Peat Bog pass
Turn 3: tap Peat Bog BB, tap Sandstone Needle BBRR, play Helm of Awakening BR, Desperate Ritual BRRR, Chromatic Sphere BRRR, crack Chromatic Sphere BURR, Brainstorm BRR, Dark Ritual BBBRR, Yawgmoths Will BBR, Desperate Ritual BBRRR…well I think you’re starting to see the picture. This isn’t based on a broken hand and only has one egg. The Helm is going to generate an additional five mana for a total cost of two. Once again it depends on the player and if you are comfortable to go all in, I personally like asking questions of my opponents.
The Ritual Chart.
Know your rituals. If you’ve played Storm in any format you will know that the basics of the deck are counting the number of spells (storm) and quickly adding up the total mana generated. As highlander is a singleton format you need to understand how more rituals work than just the staples: Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual. Here’s a quick list and cheat sheet.
1 CMC Rituals
Dark Ritual – plus BB
Rite of Flame – plus R
Tinder Wall – Plus R
Rain of Filth – Plus B (with 2 lands in play)
Culling the Weak – Plus BBB requires creatures
Infernal Plunge – Plus RR requires creatures
2 CMC Rituals
Cabal Ritual – Plus B or BBB with threshold
Pyretic Ritual – Plus R
Desperate Ritual – Plus R
Seething Song – Plus RR
Mana Seism – Plus C for each land over 2
Channel the Suns – Plus W or U or B or R or G
Manamorphose – Neutral Mana Ritual
The basics are simple: for the first two or three turns you cast the cantrips mentioned earlier. On turn three or four – doesn’t matter when- your goal is to have three lands in play (hopefully a sol land is one of them) and a hand that looks something like:
0 CMC artifact, ritual, ritual, egg, helm, tutor, graveyard spell (you will find tutors and graveyard spell sections later in this blog).
Example (the ideal scenario):
Black Lotus, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Chromatic Sphere, Helm of Awakening, Grim Tutor, Yawgmoths Will
Mana count: Lotus (3) less helm (1) plus dark ritual (3) plus Cabal Ritual with threshold (7) Chromatic Sphere (7) Grim Tutor (5) Yawgmoth’s Will (3), Recast Dark Ritual, Black Lotus, Cabal Ritual from your graveyard and cast Tendrils of Agony, which you tutored for.
Spell count: 11. Yes I was lazy; you could recast sphere, tutor and any other spell that is in the yard.
This example is mostly to illustrate the thought process you need to think about while sculpting rituals. I also wanted to give a storm count example with Helm. Helm, Lotus and Yawgmoth’s Will together make casting 15 spells with one mana very easy. You will notice that I didn’t recast the tutor or think about what the player might draw from Chromatic Sphere. I have the storm count at 11; however, it would be a lot more in practice.
The 0 CMC Artifacts
These cards don’t need much explaining. In fact if you are unsure what Black Lotus, LED and Lotus Petal bring to the deck you might want to play some more Modern and forget that magic has history pre 2003. However I would like to draw your attention to the moxes.
I’m still not sure what the correct answer is to this riddle. Are Mox Diamond, Mox Opal and Chrome Mox good enough in the Aussie Highlander Storm (I’m currently running Diamond and Chrome)? Let’s break the moxes down.
Chrome Mox is possibly the easiest of the non-power moxes to run. The cost to run Chrome Mox is higher than the others, though it is often easy to find a redundant spell to imprint. As the deck runs light on land and has lots of situational cards you will find that Chrome Mox acts like an off colour mox. Unfortunately this sounds better than it truly is.
Any opening hand that has a Chrome Mox in it is essentially a five card hand. As the deck wants to cast its entire hand, this down side is often loses the game, bad! Why run Chrome Mox then? There are two situations where Chrome Mox is fantastic: when you are about to draw, or have drawn, a ton of cards: Ad Nauseam and Necropotence! I’m more than happy to throw a cantrip under a Chrome Mox after drawing ten cards; it’s likelier that the mana will need to be fixed in order to cast spells at that point. The only other time Chrome Mox is ok is alongside Infernal Tutor. This play isn’t intuitive at first sight and I still struggle to see the line of play. As Infernal Tutor is awkward in a deck full of singletons you only ever get to use it as a hellbent Demonic Tutor. Chrome Mox can get you to hellbent a lot – sometimes not imprinting at all.
Mox Diamond has similar downsides as Chrome Mox, but with some major upsides. I’m more likely to keep an opening hand with two lands and a Mox Diamond than two lands and a Chrome Mox. If I draw a third or fourth land it can team up with Mox Diamond as a plus 1 mana ritual. Mox Dimond also has the same benefit when you cast a Necropotence or Ad Nauseam too. The fact that the deck runs tapped sol lands means they are less of a bad draw while trying to storm off.
Mox Opal on face value is seems like the best of the three. It creates WUBRG and you don’t have to discard a card to cast it. Having three artefacts in play to make it usable is a problem. Most of the Artifacts Storm players want need so be sacrificed to do something. Also, most of these artifacts are held in your hand for maximum storm value. This often means that you will never have metalcraft to turn Mox Opal into Glee Mox. If the mox will never tap for mana it’s not going to be good enough. I really want to make Mopal work though… if you have any ideas please pm me on Facebook.
Tutor in storm serve two purposes. The first is to set your hand up between turn one to turn three to have the right cards. The other is to move your storming off turn forward. The idea that tutors are more powerful in a deck like this is not new. If you played Vintage in 2006 you would remember sitting across the table from a TPS (the perfect storm) player and losing before you ever played a land. They would often have hands that were fuelled by Demonic Tutor looking something like:
Underground Sea, Mox Jet, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Demonic Tutor, Lotus Petal, Brainstorm – see if you can figure out how to win with that hand.
As we are running Yawgmoth’s Win in our deck we don’t get to play Demonic Tutor. Here is a list of not pointed tutors to consider. Three CMC tutors change the maths; in a world where you aren’t getting killed on the first or second turn I believe they’re the next best thing.
Pros: you can stack your deck and consider a lab man kill. It works like a top deck tutor most of the time.
Cons: you lose half your life rounded up. Exile your graveyard which can make a Yawgmoth’s Will win hard.
Pros: in hand tutor. Works like a Demonic Tutor for 1 more.
Cons: pay 3 life. BB to cast
Pros: in hand tutor. Works like a Demonic Tutor for 1 more. Only B needed to cast.
Cons: your opponents can play around this. You’re often forced to cast it when it would not suit you.
Pros: In hand tutor
Cons: four CMC is way too expensive. BB to cast. Too slow to help set up and too mana intensive to help go off.
Pros: In hand Tutor. has the same stats as Demonic Tutor.
Cons: needs set up to cast, i.e. creature to sac, card disadvantage
Pros: in hand Tutor. Has the same stats as Demonic Tutor. Works exactly like D.T at times. Fantastic when combined with LED.
Cons: completely dead card if you are unable to empty your hand.
Gamble (My personal Favourite):
Pros: Better stats then Demonic Tutor. In hand tutor, well sorta. When it works it’s busted.
Cons: I refuse to admit there’s a bad thing to say about this card. I guess you do have to discard at random, that’s a part of the fun though, and I suppose that’s net negative one card in hand too.
Cons: Top deck tutor. Pay 2 life.
Not technically a tutor but it can work like one.
Not technically a tutor but it can work like one.
In reality the topic of tutors is a bit too much to go over for the purposes of this short article. I might attempt to tackle this topic in my next blog.
The Yard Spell
If the storm mechanic was a Big Mac, playing cards from your graveyard is the special sauce. As you need to play nine spells leading up to the lethal Tendrils or 14ish in the case of Brain Freeze, you need a way to get to a critical mass. Yawgmoth’s Will allows you to do just that. Storm decks are designed to cast every spell in hand, 7 spells in a turn isn’t enough. 10 spells, including Tendrils, is how you win the game. The best way to do this is by playing all you spells from your hand and then turning your graveyard into your hand, then recast those same spells and win from there.
Yawgmoth’s Will is possibly the most broken card in the game as it literally turns your yard into your hand. As such it commands three points (see highlander points list link above) and we will happily have it in our deck. So when you start to look for other non-pointed options you start to feel a bit ripped off.
Past in Flames: Is the Yawgmoth’s Will of legacy. I’m sure there’s a Storm list ready to brew without Black Lotus and eggs which would make this card nuts (you would get better tutors and Baral seems fantastic here….just saying). It’s still very good and fuels games where your need to play around Null Rod or Stony Silence. When you play with three rituals and a Helm, you win the game more often than not.
Ill-gotten Gains: A personal fave and very tricky to play with. It might just be bad. When you return a Lotus, ritual and tutor it seems to work out. Be careful not to let your opponent have Flusterstorm, Force of Will or something else good though. The added bonus when Ill-Gotten Gains resolves is that you have perfect information – it sucks when that information is the hard fact that you can’t win.
Magus of the Will: I haven’t tried this guy yet. It seems to me that the downside of being a creature is too big to ignore. All it will do is turn your opponent’s removal into a relevant spells. However, if the magus manages to stay on the battlefield to be activated it works just as well as Yawgmoth’s Will.
Sins of the Past and Mizzix Mastery: I’ll talk about these together as they have the same function. Often these spell are used slightly differently to the other yard spells. Instead of recasting everything from your graveyard your goal is to have a low storm count, cast Tendrils with storm three – tendrils is the fourth spell – then cast sins/mastery on tendrils: storm five, and win – yes that maths works. Mizzix Mastery has the added bonus of being cheaper and having a sweet overload ability, it’s often win more but…
Let’s sum up what we talked about so far and what a combination of these cards can do for you.
One: take a turn or two to sculpt a hand – you want Lotus and Yawgmoth’s Win!
Two: pick a line to follow and cast a lot of spells.
Three: look up from your play mat and ask your opponent if they enjoyed watching you enjoy the game.
In all seriousness, this is only a breakdown of the cards that are made playable because highlander is a singleton format. I could go into lands and mana bases too but I’ll be here for the next three years getting that wrong – FYI 16/17 lands should do. Here’s a final list – sorry no side board. I’d love to hear you thoughts to improve the deck.
Stormlander (Australian Highlander)