Simply put, current Legacy Storm is one of the most degenerate decks of all time relative to the format it is in. Most decks can't actually present enough hate to beat it, and most of those that could are unable to do so without sacrificing every other matchup. The only thing standing between Storm and total dominance of the metagame is Counterbalance, which admittedly in my experience is unwinnable.
How does Storm work?
For reference, here is my list from the Grand Prix. The sideboard will be discussed later.
4 Dark Ritual
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Lotus Petal
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Infernal Tutor
2 Grim Tutor
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Ill-Gotten Gains
1 Tendrils of Agony
4 Polluted Delta
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Underground Sea
The general game plan of the deck is the following
- Cast some cantrips to set up a hand with Rituals and a Tutor.
- Cast some Duresses if necessary to clear the way.
- Make a bunch of mana and Tutor for an end game spell.
Once the Tutor resolves, the deck has three different end games: Ad Nauseam, Ill-Gotten Gains, and Tutor chains.
Ad Nauseam: This kill is both the easiest and the most difficult. Actually casting Ad Nauseam is much easier to cast than Ill-Gotten Gains, and a lot of inexperienced Storm pilots will gravitate to it. However there are a lot of options in resolving the spell and a lot of ways to be wrong. The game that I punted to not top 8 the Grand Prix was in large part due to going too far on an Ad Nauseam and being unable to cast Thoughtseize. You can also brick with Ad Nauseam at low enough life totals, while the other two methods are assured. If you are going to go for Ad Nauseam, it should be because the other two options aren't open for some reason.
Ad Nauseam can kill from any number of storm, mana, and life, but usually you need 12 life and mana floating to be fairly safe. The only real way to get better with Ad Nauseam is practice, but generally you are aiming to assemble Lion's Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor or just mana and some other end game. One thing to constantly consider with Ad Nauseam when you have Infernal Tutor is whether you can stop to get to Hellbent. The most common scenario is when you have revealed a Tutor, some mana, and a cantrip but can't play a land. Usually the odds of one cantrip hitting a castable spell are higher than the odds of you Ad Nauseaming into one. With two it depends, but often your plan becomes to find a Grim Tutor or Lion's Eye Diamond instead.
Similar to above, when you reach low life totals with the ability to cast cantrips, often your odds of hitting a necessary Lion's Eye Diamond are better if you stop and start playing blue spells. If you are already locked into hitting a Lion's Eye Diamond due to having a bunch of lands and an Infernal Tutor, you are absolutely safe flipping at 5 life and mostly safe at 3 or 4 life. 1 to 2 is the point where you usually are taking large risks in going further.
It is also reasonable to leave a Lion's Eye Diamond in play if you already have mana to spare and life to throw around when you cast Lion's Eye Diamond.
If you Ad Nauseam without mana floating or a land drop, it gets very risky. I did it at 20 life at the Grand Prix and almost died trying to find a Lotus Petal. I would only advise it when you absolutely can't wait (I did it on turn 1 in the mirror when waiting would mean opening myself up to a Duress).
Ill-Gotten Gains: This kill is very straight forward. Make mana, tutor for Ill-Gotten Gains getting back Tutor and mana, Tutor for Tendrils and win. If the first Tutor is your fifth spell you have lethal storm. If you are short on storm but have excess mana, Tutors can be chained at the end to add storm.
In the simplest form, the whole cycle costs 12 mana for an Infernal Tutor kill or 14 for a Grim Tutor kill. Before you start, calculate how much mana you have then and add the amount from the Rituals you will get back. Lotus Petal and Cabal Ritual without Threshold are both plus 1, Dark Ritual is plus 2, and a LED or Cabal Ritual with Threshold is plus 3. Keep in mind that if you are returning LEDs you actually need mana upfront to cast the Tutor, though typically if you have used 2 LEDs in one turn you havemore than enough mana to spare.
The thing that confounds this route to victory is that the effect is symmetrical. Daze effects are easy to account for by just adding mana to your necessary count, but Force of Will and other counters are the main issue. It is possible to win through these cards with Ill-Gotten Gains however. Duresses can be substituted in for Rituals at the cost of adding 1 mana to the total needed and losing the mana the Ritual would make. Fortunately most Blue decks give you enough time that this is either possible or not necessary.
The major non-counter cards to consider with this kill are Orim's Chant and burn spells. Orim's Chant is rough, as if it is in their graveyard Ill-Gotten Gains is completely invalid as a win condition. Burn spells are simple: if they can get back lethal burn, don't go for this route of victory.
Tutor Chains: This is the most straightforward end game. It is also the most difficult to set up in a goldfish scenario as it requires the most live cards to start with. The goal of this set up is to make a large amount of mana then tutor for tutors until you reach nine storm, at which point the last tutor finds Tendrils of Agony for lethal. This option comes up often against blue decks, where you have the time to assemble the perfect hand for this and Ill-Gotten Gains kills aren't assured due to the presence for Force of Will.
A subset of this that comes up against Landstill and other big control decks is when you just have the Tendrils. In this case you can set up to use their own counters to add to the storm count. If going for this route also consider that they can counter Tendrils copies if you don't clear out their hand.
One trick for getting more mana: Sometimes you don't have Threshold for Cabal Ritual, but have a Lion's Eye Diamond and an Infernal Tutor. Count first, but if sacrificing the LED gets you Threshold you can Infernal Tutor, respond with Cabal Ritual, then sacrifice LED.
The most important thing to realize with this deck is that you only go off in two scenarios.
- You know you have it. Their hand is clear, your route to victory is assured, and it's a matter of going through the motions.
- This is your last good point to win.
The later encompasses a variety of cases such as
- They have lethal on board.
- You will take a ton of damage next turn and are going to cast Ad Nauseam.
- They are going to get some engine online next turn that will overwhelm your disruption, such as Jace.
- Waiting won't help you clear the way better but will help them disrupt you. This is most common when you have no cantrips to find more Duresses and they only have a one or two which could be answers or you keep an opening seven that you essentially lay down on turn one and ask for the Force.
Quick notes about the set up phase:
- If you have extra Tutors/end game spells, Infernal can be used to find extra Rituals. It also acts as a Desperate Ritual if you find a LED or thresholded Cabal Ritual the turn you go off. Just be careful to have mana left over to play your spells after investing the first two.
- When cantripping, think about what general card type you need in your hand and look for it. More cantrips are also equivalent to this if you have time to cast them.
- Learn to Brainstorm. There are many articles on this subject, but it mainly comes down to don't play it on turn one if you can instead play it and fetch away both bad cards.
- Preordain is better than Ponder on turn one. You don't want to have to Preordain through a bad card you leave off Ponder.
- The way to use LED plus a Tutor is announce the Tutor then immediately sacrifice LED in response. If you ask for responses for them you have passed priority, and if they don't respond your Tutor then resolves without you being able to crack LED.
Why play this list over others?
The main question is why this list is better than the 5C TEPS deck Bryant Cook played. On the surface level that deck has access to what seem to be a broader range of powerful effects.
The primary reason this list is superior is the resilience to soft hate. Against the 5C builds, Wasteland can completely cold some hands, where as Wasteland is almost blank against this list. The only times I was Wastelanded at the Grand Prix I let it happen to Time Walk them. Daze effects are also much stronger against the 5C list due to the color requirements. In this list, paying for a Daze is simply mathematic. In the other list, paying for a Daze can cut you off colors to cast later Rituals, making it much easier to end up Time Walked and down a card. The lower land count can also exacerbate this issue, as well as the fact it is harder to generate large quantities of mana with Rite of Flame.
The cards that are being upgraded also aren't actually better. Orim's Chant has a plus side against cards like Stifle and Mindbreak Trap, but Thoughtseize covers things like Counterbalance and Jace that can end your ability to win ever. Simple disruption spells can be powered or Duressed through, especially in the scenarios where your opponent has a large number of them in hand. If they have all answers, odds are their threats can't finish the job very quickly. Thoughtseize also preserves a lot of the Time Walk function of Orim's Chant against aggressive decks by taking out creatures or burn spells that increase the clock. A resolved Thoughtseize also gives you information as to what else you have to play around and how long you have, which is very important. The only time Orim's Chant is actually more powerful is against the mirror and other Ritual decks, where blow outs can ensue. The scenarios where you are in the clear against Blue decks and then resolve Chant to allow an Ill-Gotten Gains kill are rarely unanswerable in some other fashion, especially as it is difficult to be "in the clear" with only 4 Duress.
Rite of Flame is also much worse than Cabal Ritual. Red mana is much worse than Black, even in the 5C build. Only Burning Wish takes Red mana, where as Infernal Tutor, IGG, Ad Nauseam, and Tendrils all require Black. Rite is also worth less mana than Cabal Ritual. Cabal Ritual is almost always Thresholded by turn three which is more than enough in most matchups (Counterbalance and the mirror are the main two where killing on two is much better than three). Rite also only gets better in multiples, so single copies matchup evenly.
Burning Wish over Grim Tutor might seem like an upgrade as it gives the deck flexibility, but honestly how many game one scenarios are there where you will face down a hate card that isn't covered by the discard spells? The only deck that realistically has a hate card at all is maybe a pair of Gaddock Teegs in Zoo. If you want to kill via Ad Nauseam or IGG with Wish, you have to sacrifice a main deck Infernal Tutor or add mana to the search by getting a Grim Tutor. If you don't have the Wishable Tutor in the board, you often are stuck spinning the wheel with Diminishing Returns, which is not where you want to be. Post-board Grim also finds the board cards you were going to find with Burning Wish. The main upside to Burning Wish is Empty the Warrens, but that kill is fragile at best. I never had a scenario where I wanted to short storm with my build and wouldn't need to gain life back to not die. That said, splashing for Burning Wish is not difficult, and if Grim Tutor is not an option or if main deck hate becomes a real issue adding a Volcanic Island and casting some Wishes is not unreasonable. Burning Wish also covers more fringe hate cards. The UB lists only response to turn one Extract right now is curl up into a ball and die.
Moving onto the straight UB version, the two big questions are Grim Tutor and Preordain. I'll start with the latter: Preordain is awesome. Of all the cantrips, it is the best to play on turn one as it doesn't leave cards you may not want on top. I would even say it is better than Ponder when you aren't just digging for one specific card.
Grim Tutor is not as clear cut. It simply is the best of a mediocre bunch. In early testing with the deck I only had four Infernal Tutors and many games ended due to me essentially fizzling due to being unable to find one. However, a full eight tutors is unnecessary with twelve cantrips to find them. Grim Tutor just happens to be the cheapest option that actually puts the card in your hand, retaining functionality with Ill-Gotten Gains. Lim-Dul's Vault was my first thought, but the inability to IGG with it as well as the anti-synergy with Ad Nauseam were real concerns. Lim-Dul's Vault also does not fit into the cantrip slot as the two cost decreases flexibility and the loss of a card hurts in scenarios where you are trying to generate a 8-7 advantage or just raw storm them out.
The last thing in the main that isn't traditional is the land count, namely the lack of Chrome Mox and low Underground Sea count. Chrome Mox is actively bad in this deck if you aren't resolving Ad Nauseam. The card it costs you will almost always be worth a mana on its own. Infernal Tutors can get Thresholded Cabal Rituals or LEDs and cantrips can find almost any Ritual. Only Duress, Thoughtseize, Grim Tutor, and the end game cards don't generate mana. Duress effects are usually at a premium and rarely do you have extra, Grim Tutor can just break even on mana to gain storm, which is usually what the extra mana would go towards anyways, and the bombs are usually what you are trying to cast with that mana. Two Underground Seas is because you never need more in play. The matchups where you want your mana to be perfectly flexible early end on turn three, and the ones that go long your opponent usually has Wasteland to make Sea the worst land in your deck.
As for this versus the various Doomsday decks, I'll be honest. I have no clue what Doomsday is doing. All I know is that the non-Tendrils Doomsday stacks often take an extra turn to complete and the Tendrils ones that win that turn either require a Top in play or don't let you use LED. Letting your opponent live longer after paying half your life is bad, needing to find another four of before comboing is bad, and not being able to use LED is miserable. I'm sure the increase in skill level isn't significant and if some master sat down and explained the situations they are better I would be interested. I'm just not sure why I would make myself jump through more hoops to win every time they don't have anything in exchange for dodging hate in some marginal scenarios when the deck is perfectly capable of just bashing regardless.
These are completely random. No bad hands were thrown out to show biased results.
Hand 1: 2x Brainstorm, 2x Duress, Cabal Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Misty Rainforest.
Not great, but keepable as any land, Petal, or Dark Ritual gets you there.
T1: Fetch Sea, Brainstorm into Ad Nauseam, Ponder, Lotus Petal. Put back Ad Naus on top of Duress.
T2: Ponder, see Duress, Delta, and Grim Tutor. Draw Delta, fetch Sea, Brainstorm into IGG, Dark Ritual, Duress. Put back Ill-Gotten Gains on top of Duress.
T3: Your hand is Ill-Gotten Gains, Ad Nauseam, Infernal Tutor, Cabal Ritual, Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, Duress with five cards in graveyard. Your opponent is very dead.
Duress their Force of Will (1). Dark Ritual (2, 3xB). Infernal for Cabal Ritual #2 (3, B). Lotus Petal, Cabal Ritual, Cabal Ritual (6, 8xB). Ill-Gotten Gains, getting back Duress, Cabal Ritual, and Infernal Tutor (7, 4xB). Duress the Force they got back (8, 3xB), Cabal Ritual (9, 6xB), Infernal and Tendrils them for 22.
If they had Daze but not Force you would not Infernal for Cabal and get back Dark Ritual instead of Duress off the IGG.
If they still had a Daze post Duress you would play Lotus Petal, then Dark Ritual into Cabal Ritual and just cast Ad Nauseam with mana floating.
If you thought they had more, you could have kept the second Duress at any point in time.
Fetching Sea was also risky and possibly unnecessary.
Hand 2: Island, 2x Polluted Delta, Infernal Tutor, Grim Tutor, Lotus Petal, Ponder
Fine, just need to Ponder into a Ritual.
T1: Ponder into Cabal Ritual, Brainstorm, Island. Leave them in that order, draw Cabal Ritual.
T2: Draw Brainstorm. Crack Delta for a Swamp, Infernal for Cabal Ritual #2.
T3: Draw Ponder. Swamp and Island in play. Brainstorm (1) into Misty Rainforest, Dark Ritual, Preordain. Put back Preordain and Misty. Fetch Sea with Delta, Ponder (2) into LED and 2 Land. Draw LED. Play Dark Ritual (3, 3xB), now thresholded Cabal Rituals (5, 9xB), Lotus Petal, then LED (7). Grim Tutor and sacrifice LED for black in response (8, 9xB). Get Infernal Tutor, Infernal for Infernal (9, 7xB), Infernal for Tendrils (10, 5xB), Tendrils for 22.
Against a deck with counters, you would simply wait and try to cantrip into a Duress or just Grim Tutor for one.
Hand 3: Lotus Petal, 2x Infernal Tutor, Cabal Ritual, Preordain, Swamp, Misty Rainforest.
This hand just wants more mana and to be assured Hellbent.
T1: Fetch Island, Preordain into IGG and Lotus Petal. Ship IGG to the bottom, draw Petal. Against control you probably ship both to find a Duress.
T2: Draw Cabal Ritual. You can Ad Nauseam with 0 floating here, but that is very risky with 2 Petals already in hand (Infernal for Cabal, sac both Petals (BB), Cabal, Cabal, Thresholded Cabal (7xB), Infernal for Ad Nauseam). Infernal for Cabal and pass.
T3: Draw Preordain. Swamp and Island in play. Preordain (1) into Grim Tutor and Swamp. Ship both to bottom, draw Dark Ritual. Petal, Petal, Dark Ritual (4, 5xB), play 3 thresholded Cabal Rituals (7, 14xB), Infernal for Infernal for Infernal for Tendrils for 22. Still have 4 black floating.
Hand 4: LED, 2x Brainstorm, 2x Infernal Tutor, Grim Tutor, Misty Rainforest.
Risky, but would still keep against Zoo/a goldfish.
T1: Fetch Island, Brainstorm. Draw Dark Ritual, Preordain, Duress. Put back Infernal Tutor on top of Grim Tutor.
T2: Preordain, see and ship Grim Tutor and Dark Ritual. Draw LED.
T3: Draw Underground Sea. Island in play. Brainstorm (1) into LED, Ponder, Land, put back Infernal Tutor and land. Dark Ritual (2, 3xB), play all 3 LED's (5, 3xB). Infernal Tutor, sac all 3 LEDs in response for black (6, 10xB). Infernal for Infernal for Infernal for Infernal for Tendrils for 20.
If they had Blue cards you could Duress them and wait a turn.
Trends to notice:
- Cabal Ritual is usually thresholded on turn 3, but rarely on turn 2.
- Most hands can be slow played to get Duress back up.
- The Tutor chain route is fairly easy due to Cabal Ritual and LED.
What to do when your opponent tries to interact.
Not every opponent is going to be flopping around on the table while you go through the motions. Some might actually try to stop you. The discard effects cover most of the game one scenarios and the sideboard solves the rest.
For reference, the sideboard I played at the Grand Prix:
4 Dark Confidant
3 Chain of Vapor
2 Krosan Grip
1 Tropical Island
1 Reverent Silence
If you are just looking to copy sideboard plans skip to the next section, but in a broad format like Legacy it pays to be flexible.
These are all the different things people will do to attack your deck, and how to respond to them.
Fast Clocks- Duress them, kill them just as fast. The only decks that can legitimately run this plan are Belcher and the mirror.
Discard- Usually your game one plan is enough as they will burn out and you will just cantrip back into the game, but Dark Confidant helps. These decks (usually GBx Junk) often run Extirpate to back it up, so beware. Duressing their Duresses is also a valid plan to neutralize the damage they can do, as is learning how to use cantrips to store relevant cards on top of your deck/
Extract/Sadistic Sacrament- Play a Duress, hope they don't top deck another. Usually the odds are in your favor. These cards also generally suck as they are either too slow (Cranial Extraction), too color specific (Sadistic Sacrament) or way too narrow (Extract) to be the best option.
Counters plus Clocks- See the Merfolk matchup later on. The general idea is if they have the nuts you can lose, but the amount of cards required to present a relevant clock and relevant counter backup is too many for them to reliably have. Mindbreak Trap out of beatdown is a special case, but they can't always have it and you still have Duresses. Orim's Chant also functions the same as any hard counter, only you can't Duress it post IGG.
Heavy Counters- Decks like this usually have no clock, meaning you have a ton of time to set up. You are also better at finding Duresses then they are at finding counters. The game progresses to a state where they can either tap down for a threat and lose because they can't play enough counters in one turn or they can do nothing and lose when you assemble the perfect 8 cards. Having Tendrils in your hand also helps out as often their plan is just to fight the one real spell. More on this in the Landstill matchup section.
Hate Bears (ie. Gaddock Teeg)- Early Thoughtseize, Chain of Vapor, Infest if you expect them to have multiples. If they have it game one and it hits play, rough life. Massacre is bad due to Teeg, Deathmark is bad as Chain actually serves a function when they don't have the bear (it adds Storm for easier kills when you can't IGG due to them having counters or desperate graveyard hate). You can expect these out of Zoo and Survival, and occasionally out of control decks. The later is most commonly seen as a Ethersworn Canonist to Enlightened Tutor for.
Spheres- Single copies (usually Thorn of Amethyst) can be solved with Chain of Vapor and Duress effects. Heavy Sphere decks fold to Rebuild or Hurkyl's Recall. The extra land in the sideboard also helps against these Stax style decks, just slow roll it. These are most common out of pure creature decks like Goblins or out of Stax decks.
Chalice of the Void- Almost exclusively solved by Rebuild. It is very reasonable to win through one Chalice, but the second one is usually enough to lock you out. This is most commonly seen from Lands and other Life from the Loam decks due to how good it is with Mox Diamond.
Enchantments- All of these are pretty much the same bar Counterbalance and a counter backed Leyline of Sanctity. They merely stop you from actually executing the win. You almost always have a chance to Duress them and the decks playing them are slow enough to let you find the Chain of Vapor if they happen to hit the table. The only deck that can get multiples easily is Enchantress, and you almost certainly have time to find Reverent Silence against them. The only other decks that really play these have Enlightened Tutor.
Leyline of Sanctity- If there aren't counters, just Chain it. If there are counters backing it, you are stuck trying to Krosan Grip it. Grip is better than Wipe Away as you can't clear the way first as with other hate cards, meaning a bounce spell just gives you one turn to go all in instead of time to shred their hand first. I have never played against Leyline plus counters, but it looks absolutely miserable on paper. Your one saving grace is that if they mulligan for it you have more time to assemble the Krosan Grip and are more likely to randomly catch them without a counter.
Counterbalance- Lots of Duress or Krosan Grip/Wipe Away. The same issues with Wipe Away apply as with above. This is basically the worst case scenario, as you almost can't even try to look for the answers once it sticks. They always have other counters too, which strains your discard effects.
When sideboarding your goal is to gain access to answers without diluting your deck. Thankfully the main deck is almost overly redundant and some cards can easily be removed without sacrificing consistency, namely a couple Preordains and a Lotus Petal. A Lion's Eye Diamond can be shaved against Landstill and similar decks where they A) have Explosives or Pernicious Deed to stop multiple LEDs and B) you want to cast multiple bombs in one turn, making an LED sacrifice impractical at many points. Don't cut LED against aggro-control though, they don't have enough real counters to stall that long and it helps a lot against Dazes. Against non-interactive creature decks the Duress count can be cut and upgraded to Thoughtseize. I also found myself cutting a blue fetchland against Zoo and other matchups where you don't have to build up mana. A Grim Tutor can be removed against decks like Burn where the life loss makes IGG loops impossible and Ad Nauseam is a joke, but not against Zoo as their mix of guys and burn means they are much less likely to punish the 6 life lost on the IGG loop. The end game cards almost always stay in as they give you options in how to close the game. Ad Nauseam still allows too many "Hee Haw" draws to be cut even against Burn, and IGG can still just get the blue decks.
If you look at the ways people are trying to beat you, almost everything is covered by Duress effects and a bounce spell. Thoughtseize is the only good hand disruption you aren't already main decking. The next best is Inquisition of Kozilek, which doesn't hit Force. For generic bounce spells Chain of Vapor is the gold standard. It costs the least, answers everything but Chalice of the Void on one, and builds storm.
Beyond that, it is a matter of customizing from the other good answers described above to hit everything you need to. If you look at the avenues of attack, the only things my sideboard doesn't stop directly are Chalice of the Void plus other non-artifact hate and multiple hate bears. If the former is an issue the best out is Echoing Truth to dodge Chalice on one (though I would still keep some Chain of Vapors for pure efficiency), and the later is best solved with Infest. An extra Tendrils out of the board also makes Landstill much simpler and more Krosan Grips might help against Counterbalance. Of the cards I played, a Rebuild is expendable as in those matchups you usually can just Grim Tutor for it and one Bob can be cut as too many cards are coming in already against discard decks. Rebuild can also become Hurkyl's Recall if you are playing against a ton of Spheres of the non-Trini variety, but the cycling is nice against Loam decks if they happen to not have the hate card. The Tropical Island looks odd but realistically it doesn't fit in the main as you want as many basics as possible in some matchups. As for it against Bayou, Bayou lets you follow a turn 2 Brainstorm with a Duress plus green source but Trop lets you follow with a cantrip and is marginally better in the scenario that you have to main phase the Grip as you can keep up more black sources.
The first thing I will say is you should practice with this deck. Specifically against Landstill and Merfolk my first testing gave me much different results than the later games due to getting better at playing around their cards.
All sideboarding is based on my board listed above. If you make changes you should understand why you made them and be able to follow the general pattern of what to take out.
And before anyone says it, yes almost every matchup is -2 Preordain. That doesn't mean the card is bad. You want to be as linear as possible game one, meaning that while Preordain is your worst card anything else would be much worse because it probably does actual nothing.
Game 1 is usually a straight race and you win by a turn on average. Sure they can nut draw you on three and sometimes you brick on the relevant cards from a cantrip heavy hand, but these things are rare. An early Thoughtseize can buy time by taking a creature they planned on clocking you with. Just beware, Fireblast exists. Don't lose to it if you can help. Same with Price of Progress, but just only fetch Undergrounds when you have to. IGG also lets them get back burn spells, so calculate for this. The last way they can interact is Qasali Pridemage on LED. Just don't play LED until right before you Tutor. It can blank the second LED, but that is usually irrelevant.
Sideboard: -2 Preordain, -2 Duress, -1 Misty Rainforest/Island, +2 Thoughtseize, +3 Chain of Vapor
Games two and three they can have hate bears and/or Mindbreak Trap. They may also board in Relic of Progenitus or similar cards over blanks to stop IGG. They might also have Pyroblast, but there isn't much playing around that you can do. Chain of Vapor beats the bears and anti-IGG cards while Duress upgrades to Thoughtseize to hit bears. If I see Mindbreak Trap I might leave in one Duress for a Lotus Petal, and on the draw I might go with a 3/3 Duress/Seize split regardless as you are less likely. Remember that they can rebuy Mindbreak Trap against IGG. Also remember if they have a Pridemage you can't Storm up with Chain of Vapor.
Overall: You should win almost every time.
They can Port you and maybe kill you on three with the nuts. Sometimes they have an Earwig Squad, but that doesn't hit until turn four. The best way to beat Port is just not expose your only source of a color of it unless you have to.
Sideboard: -2 Preordain, -3 Duress, +3 Chain of Vapor, +2 Thoughtseize
If you see a hate card you want to Duress game two like Mindbreak Trap a Lotus Petal can be cut instead of a Duress. Generally there isn't much to do here. Their best hate is Thorn of Amethyst and it isn't even close to enough.
Overall: Are we even playing the same game?
Duress them, take their counters, kill them. If you are playing Duress plus cantrip on the same turn Duress first to beat Daze unless you are Brainstorming first then using the fetch to Duress. If you Duressed them and it was clear last turn it is usually still good and waiting just gives them another chance to mise out. Don't fetch non-basics unless they are dying that turn as they will be Wastelanded. Count for Daze/Spell Pierce/Cursecatcher while comboing. If they play Standstill without a clock and you have lands to play it is usually worth it to just sit there and play them before doing anything but if they have pressure on you or you aren't going to develop your board just break it. They will sometimes win if they have double Force or a million Dazes plus a good clock or a really fast clock and you don't have a Duress. Otherwise you just break through the counters and win. If you have to go for it and know you are going to be stopped don't give up. Just stone face it up, tank for a while, and start playing spells. They might just punt.
Sideboard: -2 Preordain, +2 Thoughtseize
See above. It gets easier.
Overall: Favorable, but you have to do some work for the win.
Non-CB Bant Decks (ie. New Horizons):
Same as Merfolk, only you can sometimes just take their Daze and kill them as they don't have another Blue card for Force.
Sideboard: -3 Preordain, -1 Lotus Petal, +2 Thoughtseize, +2 Chain of Vapor
Chain is only in the dark or if you know they have the hate bear. If you know they don't just board the same as Merfolk.
Overall: See Merfolk, only easier.
See above, only they can mise games off the clock Survival provides. On the draw they might just get there off Force + Survival. If they have 2 hard counters and Survival when you Duress them early, consider taking Survival if you have to dig for the next Duress.
Board: Same as Merfolk.
Overall: I have not tested this at all. I would assume it is worse than Merfolk, but still reasonable.
The only thing they have that puts you under pressure to win is Jace as it lets them outpace your cantrips on hand sculpting and then kills you. The issue is that if they tap out for it they probably die. If somehow they stick one be aware you have to kill them soon. If you use a Duress early and see a ton of counters and a Jace consider whether you are going to be able to break through the counters before it hits. Other than that case just wait until you know you have it or absolutely have to. Fetch all basics then leave the duals in your deck to maximize your mana on the last turn through Wasteland. If they have Cunning Wish it is the best counter to take as it counters Tendrils and costs 0 (Mindbreak Trap). Don't forget that playing a Lotus Petal or LED is better than discarding to hand size. The same Standstill rules apply as against Merfolk; waiting to make them discard is usually weak as they have so many dead cards. Infernalling for a Duress before you combo is pretty standard, and usually you want to keep one in hand to enable this. Same rule applies as against Merfolk: Sometimes they just punt, so if you have to go for it and know they can stop you don't let them know it.
When actually killing them, Grim Tutors and Ad Nauseam can act as pseudo-Duresses by forcing them to Force or die without going Hellbent. If you have Tendrils everything gets real easy, just don't lose to them countering down Tendrils copies. You just have to play spells and make mana. The most important thing about the combo turn is probably counting first. If you are setting up to use Grim to pull a counter then Infernal for lethal think about what happens if they just counter a Ritual. If they have top in play, think about playing around them keeping a counter on top to flip into. An Ad Nauseam on their end step can also sometimes be an effective lead if you are going to be choked on mana but are going to go for it next turn or are somehow going to choke them on mana rather than actual counters.
Board: -1 LED, -1 Lotus Petal, -3 Preordain, +2 Thoughtseize, +3 Bob
If they are UW, consider bringing in a bounce spell to stop a random hate bear rather than a Bob (or Krosan Grip if it is Canonist). Against UBG they most likely won't have board hate. Also consider boarding Bob back out if they see it game 2 and you go to game 3 as part of the strength of it is them boarding out removal.
Overall: Very skill intensive, but also very favorable in most cases. Simply put they have to be the beatdown but A) doing so cuts their open mana to play counters with and B) they suck at it.
Force of Will Combo:
This covers Show and Tell decks, Aluren, and random crap like Hypergenesis. Simply put Duress the the best card in the combo mirror and your combo is better. Just play around Force when possible, stop them from killing you if you have to, and win. If they have Top consider if they will have time to use it to set up a Force on top to flip into. If yes you might want to take it. If they just play it consider whether you want to try to wait out them filtering their draws. Also remember that Dark Ritual can be used to pay for Force of Will the hard way.
Sideboard: -1 Preordain, -1 Island, +2 Thoughtseize, board Chains for more Preordains and a Petal if you expect hate (thought few decks have it)
Overall: Favorable, but they can sometimes just win.
If they have you on one on the play, they have you. Otherwise, there are two things that are happening. Either they aren't killing you till two for some reason and you can Duress them or they made a bunch of Empty the Warrens tokens in which case a turn two kill is reasonable enough to win. On the play you basically just want a Duress plus business, on the draw sometimes you settle for a turn two win. Learn what to Duress. Not much you can do either way. I personally think they are less consistent at actually killing you on one then you are at killing them on two or having the Duress on the play.
Sideboard: -1 Preordain, -1 Island, +2 Thoughtseize
See above. If you have an Echoing Truth it might be worth it in case they run out Belcher to activate the next turn or for Empty.
Overall: Slightly favorable, but pretty high variance based on their seven.
The super Fast LED versions you handle like Belcher. The non-LED versions you handle like Force combo decks without Force.
Overall: Non-LED versions are very easy, LED version I have not tested against but are presumably slightly more difficult.
I have tested 0 games against this deck, but in theory they are soft to Duress and don't really do much. They can Confinement lock or Runed Halo you or some other crap, but really nothing springs up as a issue. Duress their relevant cards then kill them.
Sideboard: -3 Preordain, -1 Lotus Petal, -1 Island, -1 Misty Rainforest, +1 Reverent Silence, +2 Chain of Vapor, +2 Thoughtseize, +1 Tropical Island
This again is all theory. Thoughtseize is awesome against a deck with so few specific live cards. I'm not sold Krosan Grip is actually better than Chain here. Bouncing the relevant card and killing them should be just as good, and they might randomly board Gaddock Teeg. Also they don't really have a good way to stop you from just going Grim Tutor, Silence, kill you, so worst case scenario you just do that. If you see Leyline of Sanctity I would probably bring in more bounce/Grips instead of Thoughtseize and possibly leave in more Preordains.
Overall: No clue, but I would assume very good barring a 15 card sideboard from them.
Duress is very good for two reasons: you gain a turn with it and also know exactly how much damage you will take off Ill-Gotten Gains. They can be fast, you should be faster.
Board: -2 Preordain, -1 Grim Tutor, +2 Chain of Vapor, +1 Rebuild
They can have White Leyline, Chalice, or Mindbreak Trap. Reboard accordingly, but keep in mind that Mindbreak Trap actually buys you time by not being a burn spell. Same with the others.
Lands/Other Loam Decks:
Game one the only things they can do are Port you, Ghost Quarter lock you, and maybe Zuran Orb to a million life. Port is the same as against Goblins, Ghost Quarter you can either race or hold lands in your deck by not fetching immediately, and Zuran Orb you just go bigger than with Ad Nauseam. You should not lose game one.
Other Loam decks might have Chalice of the Void. A single Chalice is relatively easy to beat. Remember that if it is set on zero you can still play the artifacts for storm count. They also might Burning Wish for some silly hate card. Try not to let this happen.
Sideboard: -2 Preordain, -1 Lotus Petal, +1 Chain of Vapor, +2 Rebuild (-2 Duress, +2 Thoughtseize if they have guys).
Their game two plan is most likely Chalice of the Void, hence the Rebuilds. The count can flip if you see a different hate card game two that Chain is better against, but I would usually in the dark leave in one Rebuild just in case. It could also be anything, hence the Chain of Vapor to Grim Tutor for if necessary. Lotus Petal has to stay in here as it helps against the times they randomly LD you completely.
Random B/x Attrition Decks:
Also known as B/x Abortion decks by Mike Jacob, and I tend to agree with him. They win if they get you with discard then lay down a clock that kills you before you reassemble the win aka the same thing they do every match. You beat this with the huge number of cantrips and by learning to hide the lethal spells on top of your deck if they aren't going to die right then. When you Duress them usually take their Duress and when you Thoughtseize strongly consider taking their clock unless their Duress is going to hit your one relevant card that kills them very soon.
Sideboard: -4 Lotus Petal, -1 Preordain, -2 Duress, +4 Bob, +2 Thoughtseize, +2 Chain of Vapor
Lotus Petal leaves completely as it is rarely worth the card. You need the max number of business spells and the games usually go long enough that your lands can carry the weight of the missing Petals or you can assemble enough +3 Rituals. Just be aware that this makes an Ad Nauseam with 0 floating impossible to win from. Know Extirpate exists, making IGG a bit more difficult. Also know you can Infernal for Grim to dodge an Extirpate if you have the mana and life or last ditch scenario IGG floating a bunch and hope to cantrip your way there. Chain of Vapor addresses this issue as well as hate bears.
Overall: Pretty good but they can sometimes just get you.
The second worst matchup for this deck. This is the same as Belcher, only they can Duress back making things complicated. Hide your cards well with the cantrips and learn how to resolve Duress. If they are the 5C build, know you cannot win through Orim's Chant and if they have it in the graveyard you can't cast IGG if they have mana up.
Sideboard: -2 Preordain, +2 Thoughtseize, also -2 Preordain, -2 Lotus Petal, +4 Dark Confidant for the UB Mirror.
The 5C version only has 4 Duress effects, meaning you aren't going to have your hand stripped as often and will still just be able to gas them out early. Bobs just get in the way. In the UB mirror, Bob is very good. Both players have a ton of Duresses and often people aren't able to win early. Bob helps with the card issue and lowers the lethal storm count with attacks.
The above part about not wanting Bob against the 5C version might be completely wrong, but at the GP the only game of the mirror I would have wanted Bob in was the one I mulliganed into a no-cantrip hand and got Duressed on one.
Overall: Obviously a coin flip, unsure if the 5C version actually has an edge.
This matchup is absurdly bad. Between the Grand Prix and my testing for it I was maybe 20% to win a game. That said the builds I played against were very well designed and the people playing them were all very good with the deck. I have not played against something like a random with the Natural Order or Thopter-Sword versions, which may well be winnable.
Things that help you are if they short on Counterbalances and if they play more creature hate and Dazes over hard counters as the deck can easily power through Daze. Things that hurt you are if they know how to cast Brainstorm and if they know how to leave a counter on top of their library.
Basically, don't give up all hope but don't tilt when you lose without being able to play spells.
Sideboard: -3 Preordain, -1 Lion's Eye Diamond, -1 Island, -1 Lotus Petal, +2 Thoughtseize, +2 Krosan Grip, +1 Reverent Silence, +1 Tropical Island
Game two is the same, but you can Krosan Grip them. I am currently on the plan that if they want to board in hate bears for their best matchup, they can and I will accept defeat.
I am also currently testing an alternate sideboard plan of adding a couple Inquisition of Kozilek and Dark Confidants. One of the primary issues with this matchup is that your Duress effects are very strained. You need to take Force and hard counters to win, but if you don't take Top or Counterbalance or even sometimes Brainstorm you will lose. Inquisition doesn't take Force, but if you plan on using it to attack their support cards the other eight discard can cover Force. Of course if you start playing a ton of discard you are going to need some way to refill on gas, so Bob also comes in. Bob might also be better off as Night's Whisper in this matchup however as you often don't have a very large window to win once their hand is cold.
Overall: Don't give up all hope but don't tilt when you lose without being able to play spells.
You will probably lose a lot more at first with this deck. Don't give up. Play more, learn more, win more.