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Thread: [Free Article] Playing TES (a Demystifying Guide)

  1. #1

    [Free Article] Playing TES (a Demystifying Guide)

    With the random banning of Mystical Tutor by the DCI, storm combo players are in
    a state of flux. The most common and best placing storm list in the recent
    months, what I call UB Saito ANT (named after the pro who top8'd with the build
    and popularized it), is on definite life support due to a lack of Mystical
    Tutor. Let's look at that list and see if we can identify what made it rise to
    the top in recent past:

    // UB Saito ANT, GP Madrid T8
    2 Ad Nauseam
    3 Infernal Tutor
    4 Mystical Tutor

    4 Brainstorm
    2 Sensei's Divining Top
    2 Ponder

    4 Duress
    2 Thoughtseize

    4 Dark Ritual
    4 Cabal Ritual
    4 Lion's Eye Diamond
    4 Lotus Petal
    3 Chrome Mox

    2 Tendrils of Agony

    2 Polluted Delta
    3 Misty Rainforest
    3 Flooded Strand
    4 Underground Sea
    1 Tropical Island
    1 Island
    2 City of Traitors

    If you look through this deck, you'll notice there are 3 (4 if you count the
    opponent killing themselves or conceding to you) ways to win the game. The
    first, easiest, and most obvious is to resolve Ad Nauseam, follow it up with
    the spells you draw and then Tendrils the opponent. The second, only slightly
    less obvious, is to bait the opponent into doing something silly like
    countering the wrong cards, increasing the storm count, and letting you abuse a
    normally 6-8 card hand on your combo turn to kill them with a Tendrils. The
    third is to use your tutors and draw to setup double Tendrils, either via a
    mini tendrils (i.e. non-lethal tendrils) to gain some life to stay alive, or
    with two tendrils on the same turn.

    The business (tutors + draw + tendrils) is combined with the best discard in the
    format, the best acceleration, and a stable manabase to form Voltron. Well,
    maybe not Voltron, but definitely the Juggernaut you feared way back in Summer
    Camp who wasn't stopped by your hefty Wall of Fire.

    With Mystical Tutor being no more, UB ANT is looking for a replacement. The
    "obvious" solutions are Dark Confidants maindeck, additional SDT/Ponder + 4th
    Infernal Tutor, or LDV.

    Confidant maindeck will just turn on previously unusable removal. Seemingly
    everyone who has played legacy storm for any length of time has tried to make
    Confidant Tendrils work in Legacy, but removal is still a sticking point. You
    don't want to spend your precious discard keeping Confidant as live in a deck so
    focused on abusing Ad Nauseam during the generally narrow window where your life
    total is high.

    Additional Ponders and SDTs still leave you with only 6 (8 if you count
    drawing double tendrils or forcing your opponent into playing poorly and a
    single Tendrils) real business spells in the deck. Even increasing the fetch
    count to around 10 doesn't guarantee that you see Ad Nauseam or Infernal Tutor
    by turn 3, although you probably will most of the time. This exact problem led
    to inconsistency in the newest UR TEPS from the past extended season where it
    mostly relied running 4 "real" bombs (Mind's Desire) and then Ponder/Peer
    Through Depths/Sleight of Hand to simulate extra Desires.

    LDV is worse in a list that doesn't have something like Ill-Gotten Gains or
    Doomsday to let you win at lower life. Initial lifeloss isn't so much the issue
    (you generally find something in the first 15 cards so you won't spend a lot of
    life), but extra copies flipped during a resolving Ad Nauseam are very painful
    and nowhere near as useful as a Mystical was. On the upside, if you cut an
    Tendrils for an Ill-Gotten Gains and play around 2 LDVs, your LDV will find LED
    to make SDT IT->IGG easier.

    In a theoretical, slower list, you might consider going:

    -4 Mystical Tutor
    -1 Cabal Ritual
    -1 Tendrils of Agony

    +1 Ill-Gotten Gains
    +2 Ponder
    +2 Lim-Dul's Vault
    +1 Thoughtseize

    The additional Ponders and Thoughtseize are a nod to needing the card selection
    as well as needing more protection given that you will be slower since you can
    no longer eot or upkeep Mystical to get Ad Nauseam as often on turn 2.

    This gameplan (UB Saito ANT's), if you haven't noticed already, is fairly linear
    for a storm deck. When compared to something like The EPIC Storm (TES), a 5c
    storm deck with Burning Wishes and additional engines in Diminishing Returns and
    Ill-Gotten Gains, you might begin to see where this UB list found its reputation
    (unfairly IMO) as easy to play amongst storm players. Even TES with its
    Burning Wishes (along with the common Mystical Tutors and Infernal Tutors) is
    relatively linear if you consider that its engines don't actually require a lot
    of choices.

    For reference:

    // TES by Bryant Cook (from June 2010 at Jupiter Games Lotus Tourney)
    4 Gemstone Mine
    4 Scalding Tarn
    2 City of Brass
    2 Underground Sea
    1 Volcanic Island

    4 Dark Ritual
    4 Rite of Flame
    4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
    4 Lotus Petal
    4 Chrome Mox
    4 Burning Wish
    4 Brainstorm
    4 Ponder
    3 Infernal Tutor
    3 Orim’s Chant
    4 Duress
    2 Mystical Tutor
    1 Ad Nauseam
    1 Empty the Warrens
    1 Tendrils of Agony

    // sideboard
    1 Diminishing Returns
    1 Ill-Gotten Gains
    1 Tendrils of Agony
    1 Empty the Warrens
    1 Grapeshot
    1 Thoughtsieze
    1 Infernal Tutor
    1 Krosan Grip
    1 Wipeaway
    1 Echoing Truth
    1 Deathmark
    2 Shattering Spree
    2 Pyroblast

    That is, in both of these decks, the hardest decisions are when to
    Duress/Thoughtseize and what to take, when to cast
    Brainstorm and what to put back, if and when to use SDT, and when to break
    fetches. Most of your other decisions don't take a lot of thought. You might
    think you have a decision in UB ANT with what to find with your hellbent
    Infernal Tutor after City of Traitors, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye
    Diamond, and while you technically could get something that isn't Ad Nauseam,
    your opponent probably doesn't start the game on 12 life (yes, it is 12 life
    because you can IT->IT->Tendrils). Mystical Tutor might technically offer
    choices, but in practice good players cast it at the last moment before they
    want to go off to find what they need (protection, acceleration, maybe a bomb)
    or as a desperation move to bait counters/standstill/to find Brainstorm because
    they are stuck on something. Even with TES, with its Burning Wishes, you don't
    get a significantly more complicated deck since your wis targets are largely
    dictated by your available mana:

    If you're not immediately winning with Tendrils, or finding an obvious solution
    to some problem (Grapeshot, Deathmark, Shattering Spree, etc):

    If you have 4-6 mana floating, you have two to three choices: Empty the
    Warrens (ETW), Diminishing Returns (DReturns), and Ill-Gotten Gains (IGG, also
    not really a choice unless you have at least 5 since you need to float at
    least one to do stuff post-IGG).


    Obviously you don't IGG when your opponent has relevant stuff like lethal burn
    or countermagic with the means to play them in their yard. Precluding that
    scenario, and assuming you have something to IGG for (another Wish, Infernal
    Tutor, perhaps a Tendrils of Agony), it's a guaranteed win.


    Obviously this is bad if you Duress your opponent and see castable mass
    removal, they have it onboard already (EE @ 0, Deed, etc) or in general know
    that they have it or side it in against you (if you don't know this for common
    decks, you should research it). ETW doesn't suffer the problem of IGG and
    DReturns against control (giving your opponent countermagic back) but will
    require passing the turn (barring something strange like the opponent
    Meditating at some point).


    This is generally bad if your opponent has countermagic in their deck, but it's
    also the cheapest potential solution to win this turn. This isn't a guaranteed
    win (especially with only 4 mana to cast it), but if miles better than ETW into
    board sweepers against known board sweeper decks or guaranteed IGG returning
    enemy Force of Will. If everything else is going poorly, (i.e. there's an EE @
    0, your opponent has Force + Stifle + Mindbreak Trap in the yard, and you're
    at low life), DReturns still has a theoretical shot of winning you the game
    resulting in its perception as an "Oh Shit" button.

    You consider these cards in this order and pick the one most likely to win the
    game. Using these criteria (which are mostly obvious to an experienced magic
    player), you pick the best one.

    If you have 7 mana, you open up the option to Infernal Tutor->Ad Nauseam, then
    falls into the order below IGG assuming you have a decent life total.

    Bringing up the subject of Ad Nauseam, this is how to play the card:

    After each card flipped:

    Decision: Does this + what I've seen before (in hand, in play, from adn) win me
    the game? If so, win the game.

    Next Decision: If not, will can I die by flipping the worst possible card?
    (i.e., the highest casting card in the deck + known or expected burn spells) If
    not, continue flipping.

    Next Decision: If you might die, consider if you will win the game with what you
    have next turn after taking damage from known sources (creatures on table, burn
    in hand, etc). If you'll die if you pass the turn regardless, continue flipping.
    If not, stop.

    You could argue that considering whether to stop before you might die but still
    passing the turn is correct, but unless you know your opponent has absolutely
    nothing they can draw or the only card left in your deck that can win you the
    game is a 1-of with no ability to tutor for it, you're likely wrong.

    What does all of this have to do with Mystical Tutor being banned? Check the
    number of copies in the TES list. That's not a typo. Further, in two top8
    appearances in the month of June, Mystical Tutor was almost without fail, sided

    In a deck as redundant as TES (separated into mana, bombs, protection), you
    generally only need a class of card, not a particular card. Burning Wish is
    still available to silver-bullet that moonlighting Teeg or Chalice of the Void
    across the table, so you can look to things that perform a similar role in card
    selection (or you can be Bryant Cook, add in the 4th Infernal Tutor, pick a
    random 60th card and call it a day (j/k Bryant, mostly)). Since you're already
    playing Brainstorm and Ponder, your next best choice for card selection is
    Preordain (SDT is bad in combination with Gemstone Mine).

    For those of you keeping score at home, this means that TES isn't all that much
    harder to pilot than UB Saito ANT. It plays most of the same cards, but is
    still in a position to easily smash aggro and runs enough disruption to give
    control fits.

    Stay tuned for some Brainstorm/Ponder discussion, sideboarding analysis, and
    some play by plays featuring TES in the upcoming weeks.

    [Edit: To head off questions: I'm still playing Doomsday, but at this point, I doubt less than 10 people who read this forum can navigate its decision trees well enough in real time, and of those, I'm not even confident that I can play it through a long event, although I hope to try. This makes it a bad subject to write about.]
    BZK! - Storm Boards

    Been there, tried that, still casting Doomsday.
    Drawing my deck for 0 mana since 2013.

  2. #2
    Amen, brotha.
    Nidd's Avatar
    Join Date

    Aug 2009

    Bamberg / Franconia / Bavaria / Germany


    Re: [Free Article] Playing TES (a Demystifying Guide)

    Nice read, I enjoyed it.

  3. #3
    Bryant Cook

    Re: [Free Article] Playing TES (a Demystifying Guide)

    Quote Originally Posted by emidln View Post
    (or you can be Bryant Cook, add in the 4th Infernal Tutor, pick a random 60th card and call it a day (j/k Bryant, mostly)).
    There's nothing wrong with adding more business into the deck. You don't want to be cantripping all day. +1 Infernal, +1 silence is a viable option.

    Anyway, a decent read.

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