It has been too long since my last article. During this hiatus, we have seen the welcome banning of Mental Misstep, successfully returning my beloved Legacy format to me intact. My first thought after the banning was unadulterated joy: I could play my beloved storm decks again. I love the brutal speed, the intense disruption, the look of helplessness from the opponent…storm is my pride and joy. I mean, sure, it’s a totally fair deck that gets its fair share of awkward draws and has a certain “glass cannon” feel to it—one well-placed Force of Will, and the game is just over—but I have been learning in recent months that applying pressure and disruption earns you a quite a few wins all by itself.
Over the last year, I have most often tested the UB Ad Nauseam Tendrils lists made famous by Ari Lax. It is quite a powerful list; however, it still feels just a tiny bit too linear sometimes. I’m not saying it is an easy deck to play—it most certainly is not—rather, that sometimes you stare at your hand and realize there’s really no plan B or careful thought required: you just kind of have to go for it at the right time.
At this point, it’s time for confessions: I do NOT always play the best deck for a given tournament. I suffer from deck favoritism and I do have pet decks. And one of my favorite cards from the moment I laid eyes on it was Doomsday. This card seems simple on the surface, but it creates some of the most complicated, error-producing games you can possibly imagine. Several years ago, I had run across some forums that talked about pairing Doomsday with Tendrils of Agony to create lethal storm. It sounded cool and I threw the deck together for some goldfishing. About 10-15 solitaire games later, I still had no idea what was happening. I am far from mentally inept, but I couldn’t wrap my brain around how to build the piles correctly—much less do so with an actual opponent trying to kill me. I tabled the deck for a while and went back to regular ANT (Ad Nauseam Tendrils).
However, I couldn’t shake that fascination with this complicated Doomsday deck. As the year went on, I kept experimenting with new lists (usually from either ‘emidln’ (Brandon Adams) or ‘nemavera’ (Christoph Alsheimer) on the Source forums. I finally built it on MTGO and started playing some games. I was still making plenty of mistakes, but at least I was actually winning a few games as well. With the release of New Phyrexia (and Mental Misstep) the deck became largely unplayable, so I gave up on it for the time being. But now, all of that has changed. I am the kind of person who would prefer to improve my game by losing over and over again (if necessary) than to win a tournament and learn nothing. Therefore, when the SCG Open series came to Saint Louis a few weeks ago, I knew it was time to register a Doomsday list and get ready to punt some games due to user error! If I don’t play in tournament situations, how will I ever improve?
The list: first of all, I deserve no credit for the list I played. Christoph Alsheimer (Nemavera on The Source forums) played basically this same list to a top 32 finish at GP Amsterdam earlier this year. I wanted a sorcery bounce spell I could wish for so I cut one of his Chain of Vapor in favor of Eye of Nowhere (there might be a better choice than Eye, but it was a last second change and I knew I had one with me). Nemavera also mentioned wanting to cut the 2nd Flusterstorm in favor of a Divert, which seemed reasonable to me. Here’s what I played:
Doomsday by Christoph Alsheimer
Let me go over the most basic of primers (for much more exhaustive information, read the forums on The Source or the Storm Boards):
The idea here is to resolve Doomsday while having a cantrip to draw into your new 5 card deck. Typically, this means you have Sensei’s Divining Top in play, resolve Doomsday with at least UU1 available, and make a stack of something like (bottom to top) Burning Wish, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Gitaxian Probe, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Ideas Unbound. Next, you flip top, drawing Ideas Unbound. Cast it, drawing Top, LED, Probe. Play LED and Top. Cast Probe, drawing LED. Play LED. Crack LEDs for RRRBBB. Flip top, drawing Burning Wish. Wish for Tendrils of Agony. Win.
You might be asking “why would I want to play some wacky complicated version when I could just win more easily with ANT?” Good question. One reason is dealing with hate cards. That’s where the Doomsday version of a Tendrils deck shines. Your fundamental turn is slower than ANT, but you gain the ability to tutor for silver bullets with Doomsday, adding them into your 5-card pile. Not to mention, the Doomsday version is quite good against blue decks due to 7 maindeck Chant effects and 8 must-counter spells (4 Wish, 3 Doomsday, 1 Ad Nauseam). Plus, you have Gitaxian Probe to see opposing hands as well as Emrakul and Shelldock Isle to bring in as an often unbeatable Doomsday stack against decks with lots of counters. But enough of the brief overview. You really do have to goldfish the deck yourself to begin to get a feel for how to play it.
On to the tournament:
Round 1: Mono Red Burn
I keep a weird hand with three chant effects and some card draw. I time walk him three turns in a row and kill him from 4 life. In game 2, he has triple Goblin Guide and it doesn’t matter. I go to 3 life, crack a fetchland to 2 and cast Doomsday down to 1 life. Next thing I know, he’s dead and I’m at 25
Round 2: Aggro Loam
This should be a good matchup for me. He has quick pressure but no disruption. I have tons of mana and a Burning Wish, but no way to draw into a stack. I wish for Time Spiral, cast it, draw a ton of cards, cast Doomsday, and then punt like an idiot while I had an easy on board win. I can’t remember the exact scenario, but it was something like not cracking a LED when I probed, which then didn’t allow me to recast Top. It was an unmitigated disaster because the game should have been mine. Game 2, he simply got there before I could go off.
Round 3: Dredge
Game 1, he double mulligans. I cast three straight chant effects and go off easily. Game 2, he gets me on the 2nd turn. Game 3, I have underground sea in play, holding a chant and a Lotus Petal. I debated chanting him on his first upkeep. I decide not to as that really doesn’t do much for me. He proceeds to kill me on his first turn. 🙁
Round 4: ANT
His version is splashing white for Orim’s Chant which is really bad for me. The good thing is that I have 7 of them to his 4. We split the first two games with pretty fast combo finishes. Game three is epic. We each have a Chant and are just building up resources. Pretty soon, he starts using his Infernal Tutors to fetch up more Chants. He has 3 in hand to my 1. The problem for me is that he can chant on his own upkeep and I have to chant back or lose. I can only do this one time, while he can do it three straight turns. He chants on his upkeep, I chant back. He says go. I look down and realize his only white source is now tapped. He didn’t play out any Lotus Petals in earlier turns, so I take my turn and go off with impunity.
Round 1: opponent absent
My opponent does not show. I win.
Round 2: U/R control
This opponent was quite good. I put up quite the fight in game 1 but he had a ridiculous amount of counters and I was light on chants. Game 2 was insane. I really didn’t expect the turn 3 Blood Moon I received in game 2. It was brutal. I had a basic Plains in play but not much else going for me. I couldn’t find much while topping each turn (no shuffles from my fetchlands, obviously). Pretty soon, he has Jace active for a million turns. He lets a Burning Wish resolve and I get Empty the Warrens. I cast chant, he counters, then LED, Lotus Petal, Empty the Warrens for 10 tokens (using my otherwise useless lands for red mana!). He double FOWs to stop 4 tokens. I kill 2 Jaces over the next few turns, but between Jace bounces and Snapcaster Mages, he takes care of the little tokens before they kill him. So now, he has a third Jace in play fatesealing me. I have a Doomsday and a Chant in the top 3 each turn, careful to not get them fatesealed. He is at 8 life, so it is possible to set up a stack that could give me a mini tendrils for the win. I draw the chant, cast it and it resolves. I then crack LED for BBB, flip top to draw doomsday and cast it. Now I have to make a stack that will be able to play spells and eventually cast tendrils all in one shot. Also, I have no way to draw into the stack immediately, so I have to pass the turn. I eventually go with Tendrils on the bottom, then 2 LED and 2 Probe (I think). That way his fateseals aren’t great and I at least have a shot. The idea would be to get to just the tendrils in the deck, cast probe responding by cracking LED, then Tendrils him out. He drops a sword and his Clique and Snapcaster Mage finish me off just in the nick of time.
Round 3: U/W Stoneforge
This opponent is on tilt from his last round and didn’t seem to be playing that well. I decided to join him by donating the first game to him for no reason. I have a great draw, chant him on my turn, and have an easy win. Only problem is I cast a second, completely unnecessary chant simply to up the storm count (which I didn’t need to do). This came back to bite me in the rear when I needed precisely one colorless mana to recast Top just before killing him. Since I didn’t have it, I couldn’t recast the top, couldn’t draw my burning wish, and couldn’t kill him. I died in complete shame. Game two, I have to cast a desperation burning wish for Time Spiral. I Spiral, top, crack fetch, ponder, shuffle, top…all without seeing a wish or Doomsday for the easy win. I saw tons of cards, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Round 4: Mono Blue Delver tempo
I blow him out of the water around turn 3 in game 1. Game 2, he has pressure and enough counters to get there. Game 3, he sticks a turn 3 back to basics. I fetch for my 2 basics and do some top stuff. I use Gitaxian Probe (because I had no chants) to go off carefully, playing around a spell pierce the whole time. He played the previous turn too aggressively and probably should have saved his Snapcaster Mage a bit longer rather than tapping down to only one mana available. Once I had perfect information, it was elementary.
This is where I dropped from the tourney.
What did we learn? Well, first of all, the deck is unexpected and very powerful. Apart from my play errors, I should have been a minimum of 3-1 in each tournament. I should also mention that almost every opponent had absolutely no idea what I was playing until game 1 was finished. The combination of dual land colors, chants, and top tends to throw opponents off. I also confirmed that yes, this deck takes an incredible amount of practice to play well. Not to mention, I didn’t even get into situations that necessitated making a Doomsday stack to deal with a particular hate card. I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Brandon Adams (emidln) at the tournament and talking to him about the deck. He is a much, much more capable source for information on the deck if you are curious.
As far as things I would change about the deck…I would turn the Badlands into a Swamp. Wasteland was in several decks and facing Blood Moon and Back to Basics in 2 rounds on Sunday was rough. There needs to be a Swamp. I didn’t use the maindeck Ad Nauseam and probably would have preferred a 4th Ponder. The Grand Abolisher in the board was also probably unnecessary. About a year ago, I was testing a UBW version with no burning wish. It had Infernal Tutor and Ill-Gotten Gains instead. Your lands were a little more consistent plus you got to play with a ‘real sideboard.’ The downside is you lose the free storm count boost from burning wish, access to sideboard cards game 1, and an ease of silver bullet solutions. Ill-Gotten Gains is great against many decks, but awful against blue (unless you resolve a chant), so I’m not sure there’s really a clear winner between the burning wish or infernal tutor versions. Over the course of the tournaments, I did begin to be able to play the deck more quickly. If you are the kind of person who loves a challenge and likes very complicated puzzle situations, give a Doomsday Tendrils decklist a shot. Just remember to goldfish until your eyes bleed…