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You and your opponent lock eyes, ready to outmaneuver each other to victory in a high stakes battle. Suddenly, a flurry of spells rain down, amplified by your attempts to defend yourself. While cheesy and outdated lore wise, at it’s core this sort of combo finish is the flavorful interpretation of the popular Combo wincon — Storm. This sort of mechanic, one that evokes a specific emotional response, is called evocative design, and truly showcases the place that all sorts of archetypes have enjoyed in Magic’s history.

Temporary acceleration as well as efficient card advantage engines have generated combo decks since the early days of Magic’s history. From Mirage’s Cadaverous Bloom combo to, well, Storm, spell based combo always has a place in Magic. I’ll be covering Modern’s version of Storm combo — utilizing Grapeshot instead of Legacy staple Tendrils of Agony, with card by card discussions and a basic approach to sideboarding.

The Rituals

Desperate Ritual | Unlike most of Modern’s original rituals, Desperate Ritual remains legal.  A key component in any Storm deck, Desperate Ritual’s crucial Splice allows for combo potential even through a variety of counterspells.

Pyretic Ritual | A critical mass of rituals is necessary for the consistency of Storm, and Pyretic Ritual serves as additional copies of Desperate Ritual. While less effective in multiples, the ability to set up a pile of three rituals and a past in flames can guarantee a combo kill with a Baral of an Electromancer in play. As with Desperate Ritual, play four copies.

Manamorphose | While not a ritual in the strictest sense, Manamorphose becomes a ritual when combined with a cost reduction effect. As with most other spell based decks in the format, Manamorphose serves as both a free spell and an efficient Storm count enabler — play four copies to maximize Aria of Flame or Grapeshot.

Baral, Chief of Compliance | As with Manamorphose, the mana reduction creatures in Storm don’t act as rituals on their own, but can combine to generate a net positive of mana. While more vulnerable than a Desperate Ritual, oftentimes a single Baral can generate ten or more mana worth of value. Play four copies of Baral, due to the bigger body and an easier casting cost.

Goblin Electromancer | With as powerful effect as Baral brings to the table, some redundancy goes a long way. Goblin Electromancer serves as additional copies of the powerful Legendary. While able to stack with itself, this upside is mitigated by both a smaller body and more difficult casting cost. Only play a couple of these.

The Enablers

Serum Visions | The primary cantrip for much of Modern’s existence, Serum Visions sets up multiple turns worth of card development for a small mana cost. Storm plays four of most cantrips, Serum Visions included.

Sleight of Hand | While not as effective as Serum Visions at setting up future turns, Sleight of Hand has a noticeable advantage at finding cards immediately. Additionally, the ability to sculpt a hand past the static effect of Narset can steal games against Azorius Control.

Opt | With many versions, eight cantrips is not enough to set up quick kills. In these situations, some number of Opt is necessary, as it is the worst of the three in Storm. Without many instant speed effects and an emphasis on working with as much information as possible, Opt is assuredly the inferior option. However, a couple copies are necessary to maximize Turn 1 plays.

Gifts Ungiven | The default “combo” piece, Gifts Ungiven can find nearly any setup piece, as well as loop for a kill. It does this when combined with Baral of Goblin Electromancer, finding a pile of Manamorphose, Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, and Past in Flames. This ensures a kill under most circumstances, though finding a variety of wincons is an option as well.

Past in Flames | A longtime Legacy staple, Past in Flames gives Modern storm access to an invariably inevitable late game. By combining with one of the enabling creatures, Past in Flames can loop Gifts Ungiven until a lethal Grapeshot is established. Due to the ability to tutor it up with Gifts Ungiven, playing four is unnecessary.

Support Cards

Repeal | With a format as hostile to spells decks as possible, the need to fight through both Meddling Mage and Chalice of the Void is real. Repeal does that, while also answering potential Runed Halo and Leyline of Sanctity. The ability to cantrip edges out Repeal over most maindeckable options.

Surgical Extraction | A unorthodox flex slot, Surgical protects from other Surgicals, while pressuring both Arclight Phoenix and Hogaak decks. A single copy is sufficient with the card selection available.

Remand | In a deck as explosive as Storm, interaction that digs for wincons goes a long way. Remand fulfills this role similarly to Repeal, but can act as protection against removal spells for just a single mana with a creature in play. As such, a couple copies is recommended.

Aria of Flame | As demonstrated by our Arclight Deck Tech here, Aria of Flame is a substantial sideboard option for many spells based archetypes. While three mana is a steep cost, ending the game off of just a handful of cantrips is an incredible threat. As such, I recommend at least one copy in the main, though I’ve chosen two in this list.

Grapeshot | The primary Storm wincon in formats without Tendrils of Agony, Grapeshot serves as both disruption and game ending spell. While most lists have been trimming copies, the presence of Humans and Chalice of the Void decks necessitates at least a couple of copies. Additionally, it acts as a wincon that can be cast with Past in Flames, enabling an inevitable late game.

The Sideboard

Lightning Bolt | Interaction is necessary in a format as aggressive as Modern, and having that answer easy to find with Pieces of the Puzzle supports an effective transformational plan. A few copies is necessary for as long as Humans is a good deck choice.

Surgical Extraction | As detailed above, Surgical Extraction doubles as both disruption and protection. Play additional copies as needed against graveyard decks, though there is merit in boarding it in as anti-Surgical Extraction tech.

Abrade | Removing Chalice of the Void and Meddling Mage are two of the primary uses, but even destroying a timely Oblivion Stone or Relic of Progenitus can free up game winning lines.  Play additional copies if artifact hate is the primary form of sideboard card.

Echoing Truth | Similarly to Repeal, Echoing Truth acts as a catch-all answer against even multiple Arclight Phoenix. While rarely a permanent answer, Echoing Truth can open the window for a single explosive turn. At least one copy is necessary.

Grapeshot | Additional copies of Grapeshot are common sideboard inclusions, if only as a way to increase interaction without lowering wincons. Additionally, double Grapeshot turns can prove lethal without access to a creature — an important aspect to keep in mind when sideboarding into Pieces of the Puzzle.

Aria of Flame | As discussed above, Aria serves as an incredible wincon while dodging both Graveyard and spell hate. This upside is largely introduced without a decrease in speed, as Turn 4 kills remain largely intact.

Pieces of the Puzzle | A Gifts Ungiven substitute in removal heavy matchups, Pieces of the Puzzle can allow Storm to transition into a control deck in postboard games. This comes at the cost of speed, but is made up for with improved selection and an endless supply of resources. At least three copies is recommended, though do keep in mind the curve problems that can ensue with too many three drops.

Wipe Away | As with Echoing Truth, a catch-all answer is necessary for Storm’s success. However, Echoing Truth is vulnerable to a variety of answers, from countermagic to Aether Vial activations. Wipe Away renders these opportunities moot, as Splt Second prevents players from responding effectively, though it does not work through Chalice of the Void with three coutnesr on it, or against any other triggered abilities.

Empty the Warrens | An often default sideboard option for matchups demanding a backup plan, Empty the Warrens serves as a supplement to the primary Grapeshot strategy. While much less necessary due to the solidified sideboard plan of Pieces of the Puzzle, as well as the printing of Aria of Flame, at least one copy is still standard.

Sideboarding Tips

  1. Board out creatures | Against decks with a large number of removal spells, don’t be afraid to board out most, if not all, of the creatures. They’re a liability in many situations, and if an opponent is holding up removal then they’re not progressing their board. Use this time to build up enough resources. With enough rituals, you don’t need a creature to make lethal.
  2. Swap interaction around against non-Thalia decks | In most matchups overloading on interactive spells can make you slow and inconsistent. Try to limit the amount of interactive spells you board in, instead opting for swapping which interactive spells you’re playing. The exception is mostly against Humans or other Thalia decks, as a critical mass of interaction is required.
  3. Gifts Ungiven is a frequent cut | With most decks in Modern having access to Surgical Extraction or other forms of graveyard hate, Gifts Ungiven is often a default cut. Even in games involving Rest in Peace, Pieces of the Puzzle is superior due to you making the choice. Keep this in mind, though having access to a single copy of Gifts Ungiven may prove beneficial.

Thanks for checking out our Storm Deck Tech. Let us know what you think in the comments below, or what deck you want to see next.