A comment on my "Anything Goes" article last week advised me to check out a decklist from the TCGplayer.com 2014 Modern State Championships in Pennsylvania. Michael Tedeschi reached Top 8 with the following brew, a true sight to be seen in action:
I had to play this deck for myself and I could not imagine a better deck to share today.
I'll first share videos of me playing the deck through some Magic Online tournament matches, in the order I played them, then detailed analysis of the deck and card choices, and finally an updated decklist.
This was my first time playing the deck. I approached it in a very exploratory and aggressive manner, and I was more than pleased with how the deck performed. Enjoy!
Storm Aggro vs. Monoblue Tron
Storm Aggro vs. UR Pyromancer
Storm Aggro vs. Monoblack Discard
Storm Aggro vs. UR Pyromancer, Match 2
It wasn't all gravy. I played an incomplete match against Melira Pod, and while in game one I came within a Lightning Bolt of victory, it exposed the fact that this deck is quite weak to Kitchen Finks. Storm Entity was quite strong, but Abrupt Decay destroyed it in both games one and two. I was flooded in game two for a likely loss, but my opponent lost connection and I got the win, so I opted not to share the incomplete match. On the positive side, this deck has an extensive sideboard against Birthing Pod; I brought in Torpor Orb, Grafdigger's Cage, Magma Spray, Forked Bolt, and even Sulfur Elemental, which I reasoned would stop Kitchen Finks from persisting, though this may have been overkill.Deck Analysis
This deck is built to abuse the first card in the decklist, Burning-Tree Emissary. While most are familiar with the explosive aggressive or devotion draws it enables in Standard, Burning-Tree Emissary is significantly more busted in Modern, which offers a large card pool full of degenerate options. Burning-Tree Emissary is excellent for enabling Storm, as it's essentially a free spell, a ritual that nets 0 mana, but with the upside of a creature. This deck abuses that fact by putting Burning-Tree Emissary into an aggressive shell with added Storm synergies.
Priest of Urabrask is notable because it's essentially just an underpowered Burning-Tree Emissary, but it's still quite strong in this deck, and two copies add some redundancy to the strategy.
The key Storm synergy in the deck is Storm Entity, which is effective with just a couple of Storm triggers but capable of reaching massive size as early as turn one. The deck is full of cheap spells, free spells, and rituals, all of which enable the Storm Entity.
Simian Spirit Guide does not add to Storm, it just adds mana, but most importantly it allows the deck to explode on turn one. Burning-Tree Emissary and Storm Entity are significantly more powerful on turn one, and Simian Spirit Guide allows that in a way no other card can, since the banning of Rite of Flame eliminated turn-one red rituals in Modern (Gemstone Caverns would technically work, but it's very unreliable and terrible as a colorless land). Simian Spirit Guide is a high variance card, but this is a high variance deck, and the advantage it can provide is simply enormous, which my videos demonstrate. Simian Spirit Guide is also relevant as a Grey Ogre.
Helping to abuse Burning-Tree Emissary is Heartlash Cinder, which hits play with a large power buff and can hit for a lot of damage immediately while leaving behind a relevant body. It's best to consider it a burn spell with some upside. A single Lightning Mauler is great for playing after the Burning-Tree Emissary, using Soulbound, and attacking for four immediately, a play right out of old Standard.
Taking advantage of the many creatures is Goblin Bushwhacker, which can be used after a big turn to give everything haste (most importantly Burning-Tree Emissary and Priest of Urabrask). It can lead to a lot of extra damage and kill the opponent unexpectedly.
Manamorphose acts very similarly to Burning-Tree Emissary, effectively adding a free Storm spell while replacing itself. It's also relevant for fixing the green mana of Burning-Tree Emissary into red mana.
As a free spell, Gitaxian Probe is a natural option for a Storm deck. Gitaxian Probe also provides valuable information, which is particularly valuable here since the deck relies on vulnerable creatures but also has tools to enact variable lines of play.
Manamorphose and Gitaxian Probe draw cards and are essentially free, so they are considered to be "deck shrinking" cards that reduce the effective size of a deck. This deck relies on specific synergies and sequencing cards in the right order, so shrinking the deck as much as possible lends itself to greater consistency. Pushing this fact further is a full set of Street Wraith, which purely Shrinks the deck (though it can technically be cast off of Manamorphose). While Gitaxian Probe and Street Wraith cost two life to use, which can add up, this deck seeks to end the game very quickly, and it doesn't find itself in many racing situations, so it's not necessarily concerned about a few points of life.
It's critical that this deck puts the correct cards together in the right order to achieve synergies, so as a Monored deck without card manipulation it has to push things to the extreme. With a full 12 cards shrinking the deck, it's 20% smaller than the average deck, and should thus draw its relevant cards and synergies 20% more reliably. The only real cost to this, beyond the life points, is that it makes mulligan decisions much more difficult. On the other hand, this deck mulligans poorly, and rarely seeks to mulligan anything but flooded hands, so this should not be a huge issue. I'd advise to play very risk-neutral and keep any hand likely to be made a winner, even if it comes with significant chance of catastrophic failure, which my second match against UR Pyromancer demonstrates.
With all of the card drawing and low mana requirements, this deck is able to play just 14 lands, but these lands actually work to Shrink the deck. Eight red fetchlands, Scalding Tarn and Arid Mesa, are used solely for their ability to slightly thin the deck of land. This deck plays just six Mountains.
Desperate Ritual and Pyretic Ritual provide a boost in mana with some Storm synergies, and they help give this deck greater explosive power. This deck does not have the tools to play an attrition game or disrupt the opponent, it's solely focused on executing its own gameplan as fast as possible, and these rituals can be critical for making that happen.
Lightning Bolt may be the single most efficient card in Modern, whether it's generating tempo as creature removal or providing a great rate on a burn spell to the face. This deck takes advantage of Lightning Bolt's cheap cost with Storm Entity, and it's quite useful for removing blockers and clearing the way for attackers. This deck also puts itself into situations where it needs to draw damage off the top to close out a game, and Lightning Bolt provides a great deal of reach.
The final card here is Goblin Guide, which has historically been reserved for burn decks and hyper-aggressive creature decks. Storm Aggro is a little bit of both, and Goblin Guide fits right in. In my experience so far, Goblin Guide is the single best card in the deck, and playing it early and often simply converts to wins regardless of what's supporting it.
The sideboard contain some great cards that solve some problems, and I particularly like the burn spells, which give this deck some more play and more outs to problem cards. For example, Legion Loyalist and Sulfur Elemental are outs to Lingering Souls as blockers. Monocolored decks usually don't have great sideboard options, so I certainly like utilizing artifact hate cards. Dangerous Wager certainly turns heads, and I figure it's useful against decks full of discard and removal, like Rock, because it gives this deck some card advantage and a fighting chance against attrition, though I can't help but wonder if the slots could be better utilized. Pyretic Ritual in the sideboard can be used to make the deck more explosive, but it's likely a waste of space. Updated Decklist
I was fully impressed by Storm Entity, and I am quick to add a fourth copy, which I nearly did before recording because it seemed so obviously strong.
Goblin Bushwhacker was unimpressive. While it did some work, for the most part it was a dead card in my opening hand that had little impact when it was relevant. I like the idea of playing a few, but four is simply too many in a deck with 12 cantrips.
Goblin Bushwhacker made me want Empty the Warrens, a card that would likely be excellent here. It needs more true rituals to be reliably good, so I simply added the fourth Desperate Ritual, which fixes the fact that there's no good reason not to play the fourth Desperate Ritual over the first Pyretic Ritual. The extra ritual also supports the additional Storm Entity.
Empty the Warrens gives this deck a much higher potential power cap, which is something it needs. Empty the Warrens doesn't necessarily need to be cast for a huge amount, as even a couple of storm triggers generates a massive board presence. In some percentage of games the deck will be able to cast Empty the Warrens early for a large amount and seize the game, and sometimes Goblin Bushwhacker will push the power level even further. Empty the Warrens also gives the deck the option of looking slightly more long term in a game depending on the hand, as opposed to always having action forced.
Heartlash Cinder was narrow, so I trimmed one to fit in Empty the Warrens. Lightning Mauler was relatively unimpressive and also narrow, so as the weakest card left I cut it to fit the second copy of Empty the Warrens.
I have also tuned the sideboard. Blood Moon seems like a slam dunk inclusion in a Monored deck, especially since this deck can play it as early as turn one.
This brings the list to:
Turn to the comments section for any questions about the deck, and please share any thoughts or knowledge about the deck!