Brace yourselves, the Squirrels are coming!

Magic: the Gathering

Competitive

Brace yourselves, the Squirrels are coming!

After eight years, Storm is back at Pauper. And that doesn't seem like good news.

By Romeu, 05/27/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

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It was Tuesday, It was after eleven o'clock at night, I was quietly preparing my evening snack and ready to return to my video game, where I'm playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon, when Aaron Forsythe posted a bomb on Twitter that drove the entire Pauper community crazy:
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I must admit, my first reaction was to laugh until I confirmed that it was Aaron himself who posted the card and, therefore, it was not a fake. Pauper players went wild, and it was not positively. Longtime content creators of the format strongly criticized the decision to print a common Storm card with an ability that could become a wincondition again.

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As if they had seen a nightmare, a trauma from a distant past.
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Storm was an archetype that remained in Pauper for a considerable time, since it existed in some way since Pauper's conception, in 2008, leading to the banning of Frantic Search in 2011, until finally in February 2013, Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens were banned. The deck's strategy was so strong that even removing its engine with Frantic Search, the archetype was reinvented and still managed to dominate the Metagame in a format that included Delver, Affinity, Infect (with Invigorate), Mono-Black and Cloudpost. This means, in short, that it stood out as oppressive in a format that included other cards currently banned such as Cloudpost, Invigorate, Cloud of Faeries, Gush, Daze , Gitaxian Probe and Expedition Map. Of course, for players who lived through the era, Chatterstorm was a sign of concern and fear for the future of the format. Not only that, but several players commented in their Twitter accounts that it didn’t make sense for the card to be released as a common when other Storm cards that can actually win the game are banned from the format

So why should we believe it's going to be different now?

It's simple:

We shouldn't.

As a content creator, I often emphasize that we shouldn't press the panic button or overreact to what comes out in the Spoiler Season before we test and play with the card and see how its deck works and see if the format can adapt to the archetype before calling the card broken or asking for a ban. But Storm has compelling precedents at Pauper, it has only lost Gitaxian Probe over the past eight years, earned new toys and its base remains entirely intact while the other decks don't really have enough to stop it. Recently, we saw Storm cards going into Historic like Grapeshot and Mind's Desire through Mystical Archives, and players thought they were going to break the format, but the archetype is not even among Tier 2 decks because the format lacks the elements needed to make Storm work. Pauper, on the other hand, has plenty of it:
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The free mana.
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The color fixing.
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The rituals.
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The cantrips.
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The draw spells.
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The tutors.
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The lands. And last, but not least:
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A way to not only reduce the amount of Storm required with Chatterstorm, but also to make it have an immediate impact on the board that will win the game in the same turn. The idea of joining Chatterstorm with First Day of Class is fascinating. Not only will your creatures have haste when entering the board, they will also be 2/2 creatures (dodging, in this way, from Electrickery) and First Day of Class still allows the deck to do exactly what it sets out to do: filter your hand while looking for the other pieces of the combo. With a little research and some testing, I believe that with the release of Modern Horizons II, you will probably face something like this:

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This list is far from being optimized, but it is strong and consistent enough to perform the combo on turn 3 or 4. In summary, the combo will work as follows: • You will use the first turns to play your lands and put cards like Chromatic Sphere in play; • When you feel you have the necessary elements or feel pressured to do the combo, you will use a significant number of rituals and draw spells to keep the card flow going until you have played at least 8 cards (but it is preferable to play more than this if possible); • Next, you will play First Day of Class, and then play Chatterstorm which will count the Storm to 9 (8 spells played before and First Day of Class), placing a total of 10 squirrels, who will enter with + 1 / + 1 counters and haste, totaling at least 20 damage when attacking. You don't even need to make a Storm in the first turns of the game for 9, considering that your opponent doesn't have the best means of interacting with you, there will always be the possibility to make a Storm for 5, put 5 2/2 tokens in turn 2 and go on a race with these creatures while recovering your resources if you don’t win the game in a few turns.

And how exactly can we deal with the threat that lies ahead?

There are a few options.

Remove the Tokens

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My first suggestion is the inclusion of Echoing Truth and Echoing Decay to deal with the tokens, since Storm is an archetype that needs to use many of its resources in a single turn to be able to explode and win the game. Both cards are clean, low-cost answers that can be kept in hand with open mana from turn 2 onwards and are extremely effective for decks with threats and instant-speed spells like Faeries or Delver.
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Although slower, Fiery Cannonade also falls into this category as yet another clean and direct answer against tokens (considering that the opponent has played only one First Day of Class, as the spell's ability stacks) that can be used by red decks to deal with the opponent's aggression.

Discard and Disruption

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The number of cards in hand is essential for the Storm player. Therefore, resorting to targeted and numbered discard spells on the opponent seems to be the other most efficient way to disrupt Storm's game, since fewer cards in the hand mean less chances of making the sequence of spells necessary to win the game. In the past, Mono-Black Control was considered one of Storm's bad matches due to its disruption package, and I believe it can be played with several decks that run black on Pauper today.
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Another option is to counter important cards while the opponent is going through the combo. Playing a Dispel against a Cabal Ritual when the opponent is low on mana, playing Negate or Counterspell on First Day of Class, among others are viable options to delay the deck plan enough to take the game. An important point about using counters against Storm is that this tactic will take time, patience and experience for players (where many have never faced a Storm deck in Pauper before) to learn which cards should be countered and when they should be countered.

Land Destruction

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In particular, I believe that this option also only works if accompanied by a clock, but destroying the opponent's Sac Lands before they can use them in the best way is a very viable option especially for a deck that tends to use only a few lands.

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Of course, the archetype can adapt and adopt more lands and even basic lands to deal with Cleansing Wildfire, but the option is viable when used in the first turns of the game and against players with a greedy manabase.

Punish your opponents for filling the board

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This option may not even be as efficient because the opponent will normally make a Storm for 10 to 12 + First Day of Class and put that many tokens, so you will need to set a clock in the first turns or play several of these cards to punish the opponent in this way for this option to be good.

Prevent the Damage

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This new Storm variant will win the game through combat, using Squirrel tokens to attack. Cards like Moment's Peace, Tangle, Prismatic Strands and the like can hold the board long enough for you to be able to turn the tide in your favor or beat your opponent in the race (in the case of Boros Bully). Weather the Storm is not the best option for dealing with this deck, as it will essentially gain 1 life for each spell cast (the tokens will be attacking as 2/2 creatures) and does not collaborate much if the opponent succeeds to use more than one Chatterstorm.

Outrace Them

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This one is quite simple: Your opponent can't Storm if they're dead (not literally, please) Storm is an archetype with little to no board interaction, an archetype that most of the time is so focused on goldfishing that it allows the opponent to play freely during some turns. This opens up the opportunity for decks with a significant clock to win the game before it has a chance to Storm. Decks like Affinity, Burn, Bogles, Stompy and Heroic are fast decks and capable of creating situations that will force the opponent to storm defensively, producing tokens mostly for blocking, which means spending resources that they would naturally not want to spend before trying to win the game. Obviously, this plan is flawed: you cannot simply guarantee to win the game before the opponent manages to close the Storm.

If we can deal with it, so what's the problem?

The problem is that none of these answers are efficient enough to handle a Storm deck all by itself. We don't have cards like Deafening Silence, Damping Sphere or Flusterstorm in Pauper. In addition, virtually all the answers we have are inefficient compared to what the deck does and even what the deck may have on their sideboard. If your answer is Echoing Truth or Echoing Decay, it has Duress. If his answer is Trespasser’s Curse and the like, it has Echoing Truth. If your answer is to prevent the damage, it has Flaring Pain. If his answer is to race, it has Echoing Truth and Weather the Storm. Do you want to counter any specific card during the combo? It has Pyroblast. Do you want to discard their cards? It has Deep Analysis and the like to generate card advantage. In other words, you use effects that are very focused on what the deck intends to do, while it uses cards that are universally good to deal with your answers. In this way, Storm becomes a highly redundant deck that, when piloted by experienced players who know the format well, becomes a real machine for winning games with enough consistency to polarize the format.

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I say polarize because, with the absence of more efficient means of hating-out Storm in Pauper, it is not just a specific kind of hate that will make you stand a better chance against the archetype. It's not a question of putting 4 Duress on the sideboard and hoping it will be enough: you will have to build your deck considering if it has enough to beat Storm OR if you simply accept losing to what can then become the most played deck of the format.

Which decks might stand a chance against Storm?

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Dimir Faeries basically has everything that may be needed to deal with Storm: the ability to play proactive threats while having strong disrupting elements like counters and discards while also using Echoing Decay and Echoing Truth . It is exactly the deck that the Storm should fear because normally the Faeries will have more answers than Storm has in terms of resources and disruption. Faeries' only weakness is that its clock is not fast enough to handle Storm if the game goes on too long, which leads us to the other archetype:
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I believe that Dimir Delver is even more favorable against Storm than Faeries, since the deck has a number of more significant slots that can be dedicated to dealing with the archetype, while its clock with Delver of Secrets and mainly Gurmag Angler accumulate faster than the faeries. The issue, compared to the previous deck, is that Dimir Delver's threats are single cards and not several creatures attacking simultaneously, which means that cards that Storm can side-in like Echoing Truth or even some removals are more efficient in delaying your game.
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Here I also include all Black-Based Monarch decks, such as Rakdos Monarch. Black-Based decks, if built between maindeck and sideboard to play well against combos, can make the game a nightmare for Storm: Discard spells like Duress and Wrench Mind, in addition to Chittering Rats, delay the deck's plan. Land disruption like Choking Sands is a problem for a deck that uses Sac Lands for extra mana. The problem with MBC is that the clock is still bad: even a sequence with Chittering Rats, [Thorn of the Black Rose and Gray Merchant of Asphodel still offers a window of opportunity for the opponent to recover and go off. But I think the amount of disruption available in black is more than enough to make the match against black-based decks a nightmare for Storm.
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It may seem strange, but I believe that Moggwarts has enough tools to have a favorable match against Storm: the deck has disruptive elements with Duress, can adopt more of these elements if necessary, and has a clean and smooth 4-turn clock against a deck that doesn't interact with it.
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I'm adding a Jeskai list, but I believe that other aggressive variants of the archetype can also be included. More aggressive versions of Affinity are fast enough to make sure Storm doesn't have time to go off when they want to. Of course, it needs a bit of luck because Affinity has some games where it loses to itself, but an aggressive combination of Myr Enforcer, Atog, Fling or Temur Battle Rage is the largest clock among the format's Aggro decks. I could name other Aggro decks here, but I believe that a considerable portion of them can simply be completely countered out by a well applied Weather the Storm by the opponent, and playing around the card means giving even more opportunities for the opponent to win with Chatterstorm.

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If Gruul Cascade goes back to its roots and uses the Ponza base, betting on a higher number of land disruption, the deck has great chances of being a favorable deck against Storm while the lists bet on a manabase with few lands and Sac Lands, Boarding Party and Annoyed Altisaur are great cards to put pressure on the board as well.
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Speaking of Cascade, Jund can also have a positive match against Storm if it resorts to more dedicated disruptions to the deck. This color combination has everything you need: Discard, Land Destruction, a significant clock and a game plan that can dedicate more slots to deal with this deck.

Conclusion

Chatterstorm and the other Modern Horizons II additions to Pauper will arrive at

June 18th

. Particularly, I fear that Storm will continue to be too efficient for the format and, even though it has more answers now, the combination of Chatterstorm with First Day of Class is powerful and could cause the format to totally change its way of building decks, needing to consider the rebirth of a threat that had been buried for the past eight years: Storm decks. I would like to be more optimistic about the inclusion of this card, and I even believe that the options available to answer it mean that some archetypes can compete with the combo fairly. However, I believe that it will take much more than just a few slots to deal with the archetype, which would make the format polarized and played around a strategy, which are clear signs of an unhealthy format. Because of that, my personal bet is that Chatterstorm does not last more than 45 days at Pauper after the release of Modern Horizons II. I hope to be wrong, after all new combos are always welcome to the format. Until then, I will be playing with this deck from Day 1 until the day of its fateful ban. (... Or if, by some force of chance, we are all wrong and realize that the card did not break the format.) Thanks for reading!
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Romeu

Writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually Magic: The Gathering competitive formats. Pauper Masters' Organizer.

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