Another ancient scourge of the Modern format is Storm. Like Affinity, it has been floating in and around the top tables since the inception of the format. Though unlike Affinity, it’s current nadir is due in no small part to the myriad of bannings laid on its head.
Though not all of these bannings were directly targeted in its direction, the fact that any version of Storm has managed to survive so many losses is a testament to the power and resilience of the deck and mechanic. This is kind of surprising, given how demanding the win conditions are.
Grapeshot (and Empty the Warrens to a lesser extent) are the namesake cards of this deck. The key word on these cards is the keyword mechanic Storm, which reads:
“When you cast this spell, copy it for each spell cast before it this turn.”
Needless to say, this ability is powerful. Tendrils of Agony, a black storm card that drains an opponent for two, is a win condition in Storm decks in both Legacy and Vintage. Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens are themselves banned in Pauper for this same reason.
In the case of Grapeshot, when you cast it as the 20th spell in a turn, you deal 20 damage to your opponent and win on-the-spot. Simple. As you may have guessed, the problem is that you are untapping with (at most) seven cards in hand and a handful of lands. So how can you cast 20 spells in a single turn?
The answer requires three parts: ways to cheat on mana, ways to find your combo, and ways to go over the top.
1: Cheating on Mana
In days long past, cheating on mana required artifacts. But Modern Storm decks lean on rituals instead. Desperate and Pyretic Rituals both increase your storm count, and give you extra mana to cast on spells this turn. Exactly what you are looking for.
Goblin Electromancer and Baral, Chief of Compliance make your spells more efficient. In terms of rituals, this makes them considerably more efficient, and also helps with some of the more expensive cards I will get to shortly. They also enable one of (if not the) best cards in the deck.
Manamorphose is exactly what this deck wants to be doing. It replaces its mana cost and draws you a card. If you have one of the above cards that make it cheaper, it instead nets you a mana and draws you a card, both effects storm is very interested in.
Also of note: most of your rituals produce red mana, and sometimes you need blue to effectively find the kill. Having a spell that can filter red mana into blue can be incredibly relevant.
2: Find Your Combo
Cantrips (cheap cards that replace themselves and give you some card selection) are the primary way this deck finds it’s combo, as well as a cheap way to cast another spell or two when you try to go off. They also have some synergy with the cards below, but we’ll get to that.
Serum Visions is considered the best cantrip in Modern for a reason, and while I wouldn’t call it “good”, historically it does fill that roll. Sleight of Hand serves a similar function. Peer Through Depths helps you find a specific card to help you combo.
And speaking of specific cards…
While some decks play tricks with Gifts Ungiven (choosing only two cards that you both want in your graveyard, for instance) Storm plays it straight. Usually cast on your opponent’s end step the turn before you plan to go off, if you chose your four cards correctly, you should be able to fire off regardless of which of the two cards you get handed.
But, you say, we still only have five cards in our hand. Five good cards, well-sculpted and well-chosen, and cheaper thanks to our rituals, but casting 20 spells in a turn? That’s crazy.
What we need is some way to go over the top, to “draw” so many cards that storm count 20 becomes trivial. Something like…
3: The Engine - Past in Flames
Okay, technically, Past in Flames doesn’t draw you any cards. But the effect is the same.
Past in Flames allows you to re-cast every card in your graveyard cast before Past in Flames. Since your graveyard is rituals, cantrips and storm spells, getting to 20 is (while not trivial) very possible. More so, you can cast a Grapeshot before Past in Flames and then again after to decrease the required storm count considerably.
The flashback on Past in Flames itself it equally relevant. Grabbing it with Gifts Ungiven gives you a card you can cast for maximum value regardless of your opponent’s choice.
We want to highlight Pyromancer’s Ascension and Epic Experiment as well. Ascension was played heavily in previous builds of the deck that ran Gitaxian Probe (before its ban), and the value it could provide was unbelievable. As an example, casting a Manamorphose provided you four mana and drawing two cards.
Epic Experiment took a different line. The idea was to build up mana to Experiment for 5-6, and having the free cards it lets you cast let you keep going. While it never really caught on, it is an interesting option to try and accomplish the same thing.
Storm count 19, Grapeshot?
So there you have it. Throw in a few Remands, some fantastic blue and red cards out of the sideboard, and watch people groan as you combo off for twenty minutes.
Storm exists in various forms over many eternal formats. It is far from a simple deck to pilot, but when properly executed, it can kill your opponents out of seemingly nowhere, despite massive board positions and powerful creatures. And it is a deck we hope to see on tables for years to come.
Written by Robert Trueblood