When Wizards first released the 720 MTGO Cube, I had the same reaction as a lot of people: what is storm combo doing here? The archetype is unplayable, you need to get a lot of cards to make it work, 720 is too large to depend on that…these are all legitimate complaints. In the 720 unpowered versions of the MTGO cube, I avoid storm combo like the plague as, even though no one tends to draft it, the possibility of missing all your pieces and not getting the ramp and free mana you need is too devastating to commit to storm combo early. There is no worst feeling than getting a Dream Halls early and never seeing a storm card in the rest of the draft; you end up with a deck that draws a lot of cards but doesn’t really do anything with them. Sure, you can do some funny stuff with Dream Halls like pop out big fatties and what not, but you pick Dream Halls so you can win in one turn out of no where, not play some giant monster at the cost of another card. I had essentially given up on storm combo and declared it useless.
Then, Wizards released the Holiday Cube—a smaller, powered version—and everything changed. It’s incredible what less cards and power 9 can open up in terms of possibilities. Now, not only are you drafting with more than 50% of the cube pool, but you can power-out broken, way earlier storm combos that blindside your opponent. Depending on the power to come is never a sure thing, but crazy things can happen in a cube draft, like people passing you power because they took cards arguable better for their deck. The other night I passed a mox for a skull clamp—in a vaccuum, definitely the wrong choice, but with a ton of token makers and x/1s in my deck it made more send and turned into the engine of the deck. With combo, other than hand disruption and counter magic, there isn’t a lot of stuff your opponent can do to stop you. Turn one garruk into t2 sword into t3 bomb in t4 something else to bring you down to 5 life or something? DM;WO. (Didn’t matter; went off.) What your opponent is doing is largely unimportant to you, as you’re racing against your life total and the odds of your deck. Does your opponent think he’s getting clever with 4 planeswalkers and a bunch of wraths/Armageddon/Wildfire. As long as you go off before the land destruction spells, you win! Are you facing a Goblin Guide and a Sulfuric Vortex that brings you down to <5? Brainfreeze them for their deck and pass the turn!
And that’s the best part about combo: the satisfaction of watching your opponent think he has control of the game, and then winning with what looks like the worst board position ever. Storm combo may not be the most fun to play against, but it’s not like t1 4 drops or Goblin Guides are really a barrel of laughs in themselves. In a format where broken plays are the norm, winning within one turn where the possibility of a W seemed impossible before is, to me, one of the most broken things you can do.
Now, I can’t claim I’m an expert in drafting storm combo, but hopefully this guide will help you out as I’ve forced it a fair amount to mixed results, both awesome and unplayable. (Matt Nass posted several quality combo cube drafts on channelfireball.com that speak to the power of the cards mentioned below and exhibit their uses, I suggest watching those videos as well, as that’s where I started off.) Also, I understand that a lot of cubes aren’t close to the composition of the MTGO Holiday Cube, and that the Holiday Cube isn’t up as of this article, so I hope this also serves as a guide or a starting point of what cards you should look to run if you want to support storm combo in your own cube. Refering to the MTGO Holiday Cube when making this is easier for me as I have the most experience drafting combo in that cube. I’ll be talking about essential cards and different directions you can take the deck building. Part of that will be looking at some cards you need to run if you support combo, as without them the archetype is pretty much useless.
– Tendrils of Agony, Brainfreeze , Mind’s Desire, and (less-so) Empty the Warrens: These cards are where the archetype gets its name from. What you want to do is play a lot of card draw, cantrips, and untap-your-land spells until your storm count is high enough that casting one of these cards will win you the game. The good thing about these spells is that, even if your opponent has a counter for them, it’s pretty much useless as he’d have to counter each individual instance of the spell. Ideally I want to include the first three spells in every combo deck I make, but I’d be happy with two of them and warrens or just two of them. You never want to brick as you’re going off, so having one is fairly awful. Two is workable, but three is the sweet spot, especially if one is Mind’s Desire.
>Tendrils/Brainfreeze: Your Workhorses. These are the goal you’re building towards. If you only have Brainfreeze and Mind’s Desire you could be in some trouble against an Eldrazi deck, but otherwise they are pretty efficient at what you want them to do. Tendrils gets better once you start playing red as cards like Electrolyze and Prophetic Bolt lower the storm count you need to reach.
>Mind’s Desire: If your combo deck only has Mind’s Desire at the end of a draft, I suggest saying “hey, what’s over there?” and running away once everyone looks in that direction. By itself, it is barely a win condition; you want to avoid filling your deck with too many non-storm win conditions as drawing them as you play a Draw 7 or the last plausible draw spell in your hand is pretty awful. (That’s an unfortunate reality of the deck—sometimes you brick by running into 6 lands and an untap all your lands spell. You put the cards in your deck to draw them, so there’s always a chance you draw only land.) Once combined with other storm spells, Mind’s Desire becomes pretty nuts. Desiring for 4-6 will often hit at least 2-3 draw spells you’ll be able to cast for free, if not one of your storm win conditions. Now you no longer need to worry about available magic or what you need to pitch to Dream Halls, and instead you order the spells until your storm count is high enough. I’ve had games where I’ve mind desired the 10 or 12 cards left in my deck for the win; even though I couldn’t play any of the draw spells, I had enough spells that either untapped lands or brought stuff back from my graveyard that the storm count grew high enough to kill. Mind’s Desire is sweet.
>Empty the Warrens: It’s not even that this is a bad storm option. When Empty the Warrens is good, it wins you the game, which is ideal. But what if they have wrath? Moat? Pyroclasm? Then you just spent a turn drawing all the cards in your deck and the game is over. It’s a really sucky feeling when you spend a few minutes comboing off only for your opponent to untap for Wrath, and it’s even WORSE when they Pyroclasm instead. Still, any port in a storm combo, and if this is my option then I’ll play it without much question.
Dream Halls: You can try to draft combo without Dream Halls, but it will be much tougher. Dream Halls is freaking NUTS with storm combo. Card disadvantage means very little when every free spell you cast either draws you cards, untaps all your lands, or wins the game. Once you start playing cards like Timetwiser/spiral or Wheel Of Fortune off it, you see how great it is to cast through hand after hand without tapping a mana, and if you drop a Griselbrand, gg. (I’ll talk about him more soon—he’s another key piece.) Without Dream Halls, you’re relying on your mana to be enough which, even with rituals and what not, typically isn’t. If I make a combo deck without Dream Halls, something went wrong.
It seems pretty bunk to say “this deck only works when you have Dream Halls”, and you can go off with Turnabout and Treachery, but a lot of the time you are the only player at the table interested in Dream Halls. Other players are less inclined to put it in their unfair decks as it can allow their opponents to blow out their unfair plays by casting their answers much more easily, so if it ends up in the draft pool it’s worth it. If you only have smaller drafts with a smaller pool of cards each time, I suggest not bothering to support combo; it’ll mostly be dead cards in packs or piles and the decks will rarely be good. But if you constantly get 6-8 players in a draft, it’s worth running as once players see the craziness of the deck and how it can win out of nowhere, they’ll want to draft it. Or maybe not. Talk to your playgroup, see what they say.
Top Tier Cards
Griselbrand: He’s about as close to being essential without being essential. The thing about Griselbrand is that when he hits the board in one way or another, you draw your entire deck and win the game, life depending. It’s an Enter the Infinite that can attack and block if you’re low on life for 7 flying Lifelink. That’s EXACTLY what a storm combo deck wants. Typically you lose because they have great disruption, they kill you before you go off, or you go off and you don’t find your win cons. With Griselbrand the last two are less of an issue. Sure, they can Thoughtseize your Griselbrand away and that would really suck, but Griselbrand blocks like a champ and as already stated he’s an Enter the Infinite on a stick. Getting him into play off a Dream Halls or Show and Tell is so unstoppable, you need either Swords to Plowshare, Path to Exile, Go for the Throat, Diabolic Edict or one of the blue bounce spells. That isn’t a lot, but even then if they Remove him somehow you can still draw a million cards in response. Griselbrand is not necessary, but if you see him you should grab him earlier than later as you’ll be happy to have him and he’ll win just about every game he sees play, which is what you want out of your win conditions.
Draw 7s— Time Spiral, Timetwister, Wheel Of Fortune: The first two are better than Wheel, but they’re all great. Saving these guys in your hand until you have nothing else to do to progress your storm count is a strong play. There is an element of “all or nothing” in that if your 7 cards are useless, you’re probably dead, but by the time you’re casting one of these you’re probably drawing at least a quarter of what remains in your deck, and if you have a bunch of draw spells then the gravy train keeps on chugging.
>Time Spiral/Timetwister: Potentially recycling your action spells that you already casted is really strong. Storm combo games don’t go on for too long turn-wise, so even if you have a lot of fetches you’re probably not going to be recycling too many back into your library, so getting back a bunch of draw cards and what not is great. Between the two you would almost always rather Time Spiral, as you get to untap your lands and if you Dream Halls it you get free mana to play with, but both are good. Time Spiral is close to an essential, when all is said and done, but there’s no reason to abandon ship if you don’t get one and the rest of your deck is fine. Timetwister is fine in it’s own right, as a draw 7 that Recycles your played spells for 2U is pretty great. 100 times out of 100 I’ll take Spiral over ‘twister, but I’ll pick Timetwister pretty highly and pretty happily play it.
>Wheel Of Fortune: If you draft it and your storm deck includes red, you play this card, but it’s not nearly as good as the others. Wheel isn’t super far down the totem pole, but sometimes you need to wheel when you have another card in your hand that you also need but can’t play. Spiral/Twister are nice because you can cast them and not worry about losing the other action in your hand. Of course, if you’re playing Regrowth effects, Wheel Of Fortune becomes a lot stronger, especially if you’re running a card like Nostalgic Dreams, Restock, and All Suns Dawn.
Power: Power is good in just about every deck, and the same remains true here. What’s better than a t5 Dream Halls? A turn 2-4 Dream Halls, of course! What’s better than an Ancestral Vision? Ancestral Recall! Drop a Library and draw an extra card until it’s time to go…you get the picture. A large part of cube, and magic in general, is outclassing your opponent in stages of the game. Aggro decks outclass mid range and control by having higher quality/damaging one and two drops, control drops threats later in the game that an aggro deck can’t expect to deal with, and midrange fits somewhere in the middle, stopping the earlier plays while ending the game in the middle somewhere before the control decks get going. With combo you outclass your opponent when you attempt to go off, so against most of the decks going off earlier than later is almost always more beneficial. The more time your opponents have, the more time they have to screw up your plans—don’t give them anything!
Yawgmoth’s Will: Will is better the more rituals and Lotus-type effects you have, but is still an extremely solid card outside of that. The biggest issue is that you can’t pitch cards in your hand in order to Dream Halls graveyard cards into play, but that’s OK. If you’re able to untap with Dream Halls in play or some other way to make a ton of mana (Heartbeat of Spring/Palinchron), Yawg’s Will will becomes great as you can start pitching cheap cantrips to cast your bigger spells and then play those cantrips out of the graveyard. Also, as I alluded to, playing a ritual and then casting it from the graveyard to generate a ton of mana is really strong and, as long as you don’t fizzle as you dig, you can play most of the spells you’ll draw. If a pick was between Yawgmoth’s Will and Griselbrand, I take Griselbrand every time, but Yawgmoth’s Will is still worthy of a high pick in a lot of packs. You of course need to time your plays so they don’t get exiled with Yawg’s Will, so try to get all the cards you need from your graveyard into their before you play the Will.
Tutors: In an archetype where you need specific cards to win the game, being able to grab those specific cards is so key and such a strong effect that tutors become a high pick. Unfortunately, other decks like having additional copies of their best cards in the roster, so they go quick. Getting something like Demonic Tutor any later than 2nd or 3rd pick in a pack is a sign of a miracle or an insanely strong pack, and if the choice was between Demonic Tutor and Griselbrand, I’d have to think long and hard. Ultimately I would side with Griselbrand as drawing 7-21 cards is typically better than finding one specific card, but there are plenty of occasions where you can’t afford the life or you are one spell away from winning; like I said, it’s a tough choice. Cards like Vampiric Tutor and Mystical are also solid picks, but they aren’t picked as highly. Leaving the cards on top of the library is way less of a problem for your deck, as you will hopefully be drawing into that card with another spell in your hand. Enlightened Tutor is OK if you’re looking for Dream Halls or Heartbeat, but I’m less inclined to grab it as just about any other card mentioned in this guide is a better pick. The other tutors go for so much, while only having one or two targets can make Enlightened Tutor a dead card a good percentage of the time. Also you rarely play white in combo, unless you’re splashing a sideboard O-Ring or something of the like. Imperial Seal is also not a bad choice, but it’s an expensive card and honestly not even that incredible. If I’m casting a sorcery speed tutor, I want to put it in my hand—yes, sounds greedy, but this is cube, I’m allowed to be! While I can draw the card, if I’m getting something like Dream Halls I’d rather not waste the sorcery speed of the turn and wait to see what my opponent is doing before I decide what I’ll be pulling out.
Card Draw: This comes in all shapes and sizes, but it is key. Cards like Deep Analysis, Foresee, Brainstorm, Impulse, Electrolyze, Prophetic Bolt, Careful Consideration, Ponder, Preordain etc. are all good as, in the end, they are at least replacing themselves, if not also getting 1-3 additional cards. They all have their different merits and demerits, but you want a good portion of your spells to draw you closer to more spells. If you can’t get to your win conditions, you can’t win the game. If it comes down between picking one over another, I tend to side with cards that will net me more gas out of one card. For example, a Deep Analysis is typically a better pick than a Foresee or Careful Consideration, the reason being I am going to guaranteed get 4 cards off of Analysis, whereas the other ones typically net me 2 or 3 at best. Sure, the filtering could be replacing one or two dead lands in my hand, but getting fairly unconditional gas for the same price is pretty solid. Discarding 2 cards or only drawing 2 versus getting 4 cards for ~6 mana and 3 life is a worse deal. At the end of the day, though, most all card draw is worth it, and without it you really can’t run a deck.
The Rest (good cards that you’ll need, but not necessarily lynch pins or engines, or cards that fill certain roles in some decks):
Land Untappers: There aren’t a ton of these, but they exist and should be valued pretty high. No matter how many free spells you’re casting with Dream Halls, you will run into times where you need to hard cast your spells. Sometimes you’ll run out a draw 7 and you walk in cards of all different colors, or two cards of the same color that you need. Being able to untap your lands and get more mana is super clutch, as it allows you to play your spells at face value while not falling behind via storm count or resources to cast your spells. By playing the card off of Dream Halls, you’re able to generate essentially free mana, since you never paid the actual casting cost to begin with. As stated, there aren’t a ton of cards like these, so if you come across one late in a draft and you do not have an effect that untaps yet, it might be worth taking it over another draw spell.
Other than Time Spiral, the untap spells are as follows, from best to worst: Treachery, Frantic Search, Palinchron (which I’ll touch upon later), and Turnabout. Treachery is an awesome card, but it is unlikely you’ll be able to grab it as it’s a high priority pick for other blue drafters. If you’re in a spot where you can take it and you’re not passing any super important cards, go for it, as it can also double as a win condition in a pinch if your opponent plays some large monster that you can’t handle or a speed bump if they’re pestering you with smaller guys you can trade with his other creatures. Frantic Search is good in that you dig deeper, and discarding two cards isn’t the worst, especially since your other draw spells will net you a land or two you won’t mind pitching. Sometimes you are met with tough choices about what to pitch, but that’s just how the game goes. Finally there is Turnabout, which is an awful card in any deck but combo. Yes it may save you when you’re tapping their team down, but I can never find a deck where a Turnabout is better than any other card you could fit in there. In combo, the card is pretty solid. It can untap your Gilded Lotuses/Moxes/Signets or your lands—the creature part is rarely relevant in a combo deck—for a decent cost. Usually you can depend on Turnabout wheeling.
Rituals: Rituals are important, but you don’t want to load up on too many of them. Not that there are a lot to choose from anyways, but if I already have a combination of 3+ rituals and untap spells already in my picks, I feel fine looking somewhere else in the pack, like a draw spell. If you have too many of these cards that only make mana and you cast a card draw or draw seven spell, it is nearly a game ender. What are you going to do with a million mana and no way to get what you need? Without a way to dig you end up having to wait to top deck a draw spell, and even then you really want to wait until you have a couple because every draw spell increases your chances of reaching critical mass of storm count. In most cube matches, if you live this long without dying, either something is going horrible wrong for your opponent or they have no idea what they are doing, both which are options you can’t depend upon when you’re drafting a set as complicated as cube.
Dark Ritual and Seething Song are very good choices, as they produce a lot of mana for their casting cost and, when combined with Yawgmoth’s Will, can pump out a ton of red and black mana symbols. Lion’s Eye Diamond is another choice, and this is a tricky one. A lot of players have no idea why you’d want to use it—I have to discard my whole hand? That’s horrible! And you’d be right saying that: in most decks, LED is awful. But, when you have a card like Time Spiral/Twister/Wheel Of Fortune on the stack and you crack the LED, you’re getting a free 3 mana. Who cares if you’re discarding your hand, it’s either getting shuffled up or going to the graveyard anyways. Also, it’s free storm count, which is always huge. (That is something to consider when you are playing moxes in the storm decks—do you try to chain them into your storm count, or do you drop them earlier to play more spells to make your go-off hand that much more viable? I tend to err on the side of “wait”, as it really doesn’t take that much storm count. It’s not like Grapeshot where you’re only doing one damage; typically you can get away with 7-9 storm, and sometimes less depending on the deck you’re facing. Playing those moxen for free can reduce the amount you really need to storm out with by 1 or 2, which can be the difference between winning and losing.)
Regrowth Effects: These include Regrowth, Restock, Nostalgic Dreams, All Sun’s Dawn, and Noxious Revival. The thing about these cards is you have to play green, and if you’re not playing Heartbeat of Spring or get all of these it’s pretty tough to just splash for these cards. In my combo decks I don’t want any cards that aren’t helping me towards the goal, and there aren’t a lot of cards outside of these that I would want. Sylvan Library would be nice, but that’s a card that goes early; Harmonize is another good one, but that isn’t going to push me towards green. If I’m going to be playing these cards, I really want to have a bunch of green duals for fixing, or to be only splashing for the Regrowth or All Sun’s Dawn as they are the easiest to cast. Restock and Nostalgic Dreams are super powerful, but double green can be asking a lot, especially if green is your 4th color. (For those of us that like to get a little crazy.)
Creatures: Besides Griselbrand and Palinchron, there really aren’t a lot of creatures you’re looking to pick up. This isn’t a Sneak and Show style deck where you want to draw an eldrazi with your Show and Tell, and you’re not particularly looking to drop one into play off a Mind’s Desire. While not the worst play by a long shot, the chances you don’t Desire it or it’s one of the few cards you draw off a spell can be pretty brutal; you would almost always rather anything else in those spots. With this in mind, the creatures we do want need to gain us either some value or disrupt their plans.
Snapcaster Mage is, as always, an all-star in any deck with a ton of instants and sorceries, so in a deck where you’re chaining through spell after spell he is guaranteed to flashback something you want. He’s rarely a bad draw if you’re in the middle of going off, and in a pinch you can pitch him to Dream Halls. Snapcaster has been phenomenal ever since he came on the scene.
Trinket Mage is an interesting one, and as a piece of utility he does multiple things for your deck. Casting 8 or 9 spells is never easy, and depending on the Dream Halls to do all the work is a risky endeavor. Cards like Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, any of the Moxen, or LED are worth grabbing just to sand bag them later to add to storm. Attacking with Trinket Mage is nice when the option is open, but he’ll mostly serve to trade or save you a turn or two. A chump blocker is a luxury you really can’t afford to have a majority of the time, so it’s nice to have one that also replaces himself with easy to cast spells. How is a chump blocker going to dig you a card deeper when them untapping is you losing regardless? Artifact mana may technically be a permanent, but you can finagle with your mana base if you grab a decent amount of signets and other cheaply costed stones and play less lands without running the risk of going dry. Trinket Mage becomes better the more options you have, so if you’re lucky to get multiple moxen or other similar targets he gets a nod more often as your chance of getting free land drops out of the deal via the moxen goes up.
As an aside, I always count a mox as a land. The mox is an artifact land that is playable even if a land was played that turn—worded like that, it sounds pretty natural and easy to swap with the corresponding basic into the land section. Maelstrom Pulse still hits the mox, so the similarities stop there, but that is an acceptable sacrifice to come to terms with playing 16 lands and a mox instead of 17 and a mox. Sol Ring and Mana Crypt also fall under the same classification, but I’ll put Mana Vault and Grim Monolith in with the signets in that 2 = 1 land spot, rounded down. (3 signets = 1 less land, 4 signets = 2) My brother suggested this concept after reading about it somewhere, and it has worked pretty well for me. Anything with at least two lands is a keep, as the possibility of an improving top deck of continuing at least growth in mana if not hitting land drops increases with the more signets you have. Late game you decrease the risk of a flood-out, and early on you get fairly effortless ramp that can fix your colors at no cost to your mana base. You could have Library Of Alexandria and Mishra‘s Factory out and if you play a signet, you’re guaranteed the ability to play a colored spell the next turn. The ability to cram more cards in overall is always worth it in my eyes to try and pull back on the land base if you have a high collection of mana stones.
Back to creatures, there’s Eternal Witness, which goes from “pretty bad” to “awesome” depending on how deep into green you are. The more Regrowth effects you have, the more you can cycle spells to either up a storm count or get to the card you need to win. Putting a body on it gives it some relevence as it allows you to play your one mana cantrips early without fear of falling behind in the cards you need to go off later. Dropping the body early is typically good when you’re getting another spell out of it, as like with the Trinket Mage the damage you either deal or prevent can win you the game. Being able to Tendrils for 2 or 3 less drops the total storm needed from 10 to 8 or 7, and saving yourself 2 or more life off of a block could get you that one or two card drawn closer to Brainfreezing out their entire deck. Eternal Witness still costs 1GG, and if you’re light on green you either need the fixing or a loose mana base. I have less of an issue splashing for Regrowth or All Sun’s Dawn because of this, though All Sun’s Dawn is too expensive to want to consistently rely on it to be hard casted and not cast for free off of Dream Halls.
There’s Glen Elendra Archmage, which at worst is a decent sideboard option. Disruption is a huge issue with this deck when it targets our hand or our spells. Other than a turn or two where Dream Halls is on the table, we really only have mana stones lying around. Our boards will look fairly pathetic for a lot of the game, but that means that all their spot removal and sweepers are pretty sub par. When we’re trying to up the storm count and a key draw spell that could make or break the chain gets countered, or if they top deck a Hymn to Tourach while we’re still waiting around with a full grip, it’s nice to have a cheap Negate on the table backed up by another cheap Negate. As with Trinket Mage we run into the problem if it not actually doing too much if you’re in mid combo, but at least you’re getting a potential additional storm out of the cheap artifact Mage gets. Glen Elendra is terrible in mid combo, doing nothing to replace herself with a card and sitting there like a lame duck while you’re holding only a win condition and looking at yourself one storm short. These things happen and need to be considered.
Fixing: The lands you draft will determine how greedy you can get with your card selection. It is always a good idea to grab lands with you can, and if you know you’re in a group or draft pod where no one has any interest in going combo, then perhaps you let that Turnabout, storm card, Heartbeat or—in extreme scenarios not advised by me at all as a good idea—Dream Halls go and take the land. Depending on where you are in a pack should determine whether or not you should take the land or the spell. Is it early on? Is there a chance the card you’re passing will wheel? Do you need the fixing? Are you grabbing it to get greedy? Loose mana bases aren’t the worst for a Dream Halls combo deck once you get the Dream Halls on the board, but what if you don’t have any islands in you’re opening hand? You can never forget that you put the cards in the deck to draw, and that is two fold, for better or for worse.
Lake of the Dead is a card some people love when building a combo deck, but I’m not really into it. Sacrificing your own land is really tough, especially if you’re in no position to go off at all. If you get wastelanded or strip mined after that, then you’ve pretty much lost the game. There are games will this card will be nuts, but I can never pull the trigger and add Lake to my final 40. For a guy who plays combo, I like consistent cards in cube, and there are too many mitigating factors to Lake of the Dead that scare me.
While I’m not the biggest fan of Lake, I really like Ancient Tomb. In combo, your life total ultimately doesn’t matter. Yes, you still lose when you reach 0 life, but going off at 20 life versus going off at 10 are not that different. The two life you lose from Tomb activations are totally worth it as you jump ahead in the mana curve for pretty much nothing. Dropping a Dream Halls or Show and Telling earlier than later can blow an opponent who is not ready for your deck out of the water. Against aggressive strategies it is less good and might be smart to side board it out on the draw, but on the play if you’re feeling extra greedy you can get away with sticking a tomb in there. While Tomb still suffers the problem of getting Wastelanded or Strip Mined, I’m not sacrificing another land in order to get more mana in a turn or two—I get the extra mana instant for the low-low cost of life.
Counter Magic/Disruption: This is the trickiest part to consider. How much card draw and combo to you neuter by including a Daze or Force of Will? As I’ve said numerous times in this article, it is seriously terrible when you are going off and one of the last pieces of gas you draw is something that progresses you no further than a win. Drawing three and seeing land, land FoW is pretty much a scoop if you have nothing else held onto and you’re 5 storms deep. But people will try to stop you from comboing off if they can—they want to win too, surprisingly. If you can pick up a free counter, like FoW, Daze or Pact of Negation without passing something else your combo needs, then go for it, but it is not the end of the world. You’re largely playing your own game, and I feel throwing a wrench in those works is more detrimental than helpful.
Palinchron/Heartbeat of Spring: If you don’t get Dream Halls, it’s ok—there are other ways to still achieve infinite storm. With Palinchron and Heartbeat and enough lands, you’re able to get pretty much infinite mana of whatever color you need. You play the Palinchron, untap the lands, return him with the extra mana, and play him again. Which each cast and bounce you’re netting 2-4 extra mana, depending on how many lands you have out. This is not a combo I like to consistently rely on as you really need both pieces to go off. Dream Halls & your deck is a much better combo than needing two specific cards; instead of working to assemble the machine, you just need to flick the Dream Halls switch on and go to card town.
Future Sight and Sensei’s Diving Top are good deck choices if you go this route, as it allows another avenue for “~infinite” storm count if you can produce a lot of mana. With Future Sight in play you can tap Top to put it on top of the library, drawing the card on top. From there you can play the top and repeat this until you get as far as you need to or you’re out of mana. To be honest I’m not the biggest fan of this strategy or the Palinchron/Heartbeat strategy. The reason is because you’re depending on getting two certain cards into your hand, and even though your deck should be filled with card draw, you never know when you’ll run into a situation where one of your pieces will be on the bottom and one on the top. If you decide to draft any of these narrow strategies, you need to prioritize tutors as missing on on one piece and having the other is rough. (Enlightened Tutor becomes better here since most of the targets that you want are either artifacts or enchantments.)
Show and Tell: This is an interesting one. Being able to Show and Tell either your Griselbrand or Dream Halls into play is pretty nice, as the earlier you get these cards going, the earlier you win. A Show and Tell off of Ancient Tomb and Mox Sapphire t1, Island/Tomb t2, or even just by hitting your land drops is tough to overcome. Your opponent may drop a giant that looks intimidating, but most creatures don’t mean much. With 3 Eldrazi and their annihilating capabilities in the cube, we have to watch out when we face other big mana/Eureka decks. People like Eldrazi because putting 10+/10+s into play is a lot of fun, and there is nothing worse than playing Show and Tell and losing all your permanents the next turn. Because of this, it’s worth considering keeping Show and Tell in your sideboard for game ones, a supremely cautious play but there’s no need to get too crazy since you only need a turn or two after you’re ready to go off to get your affairs in order.
There are a bunch of different styles you can go with if you want to storm off for a million. They all require bluee, and they mostly all require black, but there are other versions that are also viable if you can’t pull off the base colors together.
UB: This is probably the easiest of the color combinations to pull off. Blue and black contain a majority of the major spells that you would want, both actual storm cards and some of the major enablers. By going UB, you have less of a loose mana base to worry about and you can prioritize your picks for the gas you may need, the storm cards you want, and the other random good stuff you might otherwise have to pass for a pack 3 dual. UB has access to the best storm cards—Brainfreeze, Mind’s Desire, and Tendrils of Agony. If at all possible, this is the ideal route to go because there is less of a spread focus that you need to consider when drafting. It’s not like there are a lot of off-color cards you’re really looking to splash for either. If you grab some good green duals, you can start taking cards such as Regrowth, All Sun’s Dawn, and like effects, though a majority of the other Regrowth effects are double green so that’s as far as you can go. Sylvan Library is another awesome one, since it is a green Brainstorm at the beginning of your turn, though being one of the best green cards means it will go early.
UBr/Grixis: Where UB is the easiest, this form is the strongest. The deck now has access to Empty the Warrens, which while not the best storm card, is completely a fine option and can kill opponent’s just as well. The card is weak to any wrath a cube would play, but that is only a handful of cards to worry about. The real reason red is great is all the card draw the UR cards provide. Beyond Wheel Of Fortune—which is a card worth splashing in your non-red builds if you have a decent amount of x/R duals in your disposal—there is Izzet Charm, Electrolyze, and Prophetic Bolt, which are all great reasons to play red.
Izzet Charm is the best of the bunch, as the card is so versatile. The version you’ll use the most if it’s not in your hand at the beginning of the game will be the looting effect. You need card draw, and looting effects are fine for that. The two damage to a creature can also be important; there will be creatures that need to die and attacks that need to be stopped to save your life. Killing Thalia, a combo killer, is always useful, and having a way to Remove cards like her in your deck. Finally there is the counter, which is really great versus the other blue decks and any deck with discard spells. Starting to combo off with Dream Halls only to have your opponent counter a key card draw spell is dismantling and can lose you the game. Having a way to counter their counter and being able to pitch it to a red card is so useful, especially later in the combo where you might be holding a Seething Song in your hand that is doing you nothing.
Electrolyze is better versus the decks with creatures, but is still worth main decking if you’re in game one or your opponent is creature light/getting bigger than your Electrolyze. Against the creature decks, you’re typically getting a two for one. It’s worth burning the cantrip early if it means an extra turn later to draw a card or two off the top that you might need. Against decks that Electrolyze is not good against, it’s still 2 damage, which Removes a storm count you need to reach when you’re Tendrilsing or it’s two less Goblin that need to connect for damage. The versatility of this card is not on the level of Izzet Charm, but it’s nothing to sniff at.
Prophetic Bolt is the last one, but is nothing to sniff at. 4 damage is huge and deals with a lot of problems. 4 damage is also two less storm needed for a Tendrils, which is very important. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of storm needed is worth it as long as it replaces itself in some way. Straight up damage is not any good, but damage and a free card is very nice. With an Impulse attached, this card is very good. Impulse is great, and while you might have to put three action spells on the bottom, you’re always picking the best card and sometimes it’s 3 lands and something you want. The reason Prophetic Bolt is lower on the totem pole is because its CMC is 5; casting this without cheating it in somehow means you’re pretty late into a game without being there, but if it helps stabilize than it is absolutely worth it.
Splashing green: There are a couple different routes you can take if you decide to play regrowth-style effects, a strategy that is definitely worth it. Getting your Dream Halls Thoughtseized can be a game over against some of the decks; if they strip that card and then lay down the beats and you get nothing going because you’re trying to go off through Turnabout and rituals, you’ll want a way to get it back, and get it back for cheap. Going full out with green is tough, because beyond Harmonize and Sylvan Library they don’t have much of a way to draw a ton of cards. Restock and Nostalgic Dreams are a thing, but they cost GG, like Eternal Witness as well; if you’re only playing a few green cards just for those effects, then you really need to stretch your mana base. 4 color combo is a thing, and a totally possible thing at that, but that requires a draft going extremely well, picking up all your fixing and making a sound deck to take advantage of that.
Getting greedy and letting your storm cards go around for the wheel can be a safe bet on some tables, but if you’re ever playing in an environment where there could be other combo players—such as online or with other players inclined to go with that strategy—your 4 color dreams will be limited as you need to take those storm cards when you commit to the archetype. You don’t really want more than 3 storm cards in a deck, but having only one is rough as it can limit how you play through your deck. If you have that brainfreeze in hand and it’s the only way you have to win, you’re less inclined to pitch it to dig for more card draw if you only have a finite number of ways to Recycle the brainfreeze into your deck or pull it from the grave yard. If you prioritize your fixing too highly on a table where someone else might try to go combo or other players are willing to hate it highly and end up with only that piece, then it’s tough to get creative and be able to pitch to card draw and Dream Halls it to try and hit another piece instead.
BUG is probably the strongest green variant you can pull. I like the red card draw and burn spells a lot, as the cantripping damage spells lower your own storm count or keep you alive by dealing with both planeswalkers and creatures, but having access to multiple, easy-to-cast Regrowth effects in your deck can increase your storm card quickly as you pull out cards that draw you many more cards and you go through your deck quickly, assembling the kill in your massive hand. Storm combo decks, in my experience, have been pretty awful without UB as you don’t get both the raw card draw of blue and the important tutor effects of black, and green compliments both of those styles as well.
In conclusion I’d like to refer to the video I put up not too long ago where I fishbowled a storm combo deck. You can see how these cards go off there, and keep in mind that these are considered pretty slow games, from my experience with the combo decks, and going off a turn or two earlier is entirely possible. Also, excuse the misplays—like I said earlier, I never claimed to be an expert.