This week is spoiler week for Modern Masters 2017. I’m pretty confident that my deck for today won’t see many of its pieces reprinted, but the few that could be would bring it to a rock-bottom price! Ideally this also means this article won’t be outdated once you read it, but you never know. This past weekend we saw Death’s Shadow continue to dominate at the top tables, but another deck that got a few feature matches was the the new Gifts Ungiven Storm deck piloted by Caleb Scherer. Given the fact that Caleb’s Invitational token is a storm counter, I’d say if he’s playing the deck it has probably improved!
This deck is relatively new to the paper scene but has been showing up consistently on Magic Online. The sideboard choices are definitely the biggest variations I’ve seen with the deck thus far. As such, it really doesn’t matter that much which decklist you use, but I will use Caleb’s from last weekend as a base.
Gifts Storm, by Caleb Scherer (36th, SCG Indianapolis Open)
4 Baral, Chief of Compliance
3 Goblin Electromancer
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Pyretic Ritual
4 Gifts Ungiven
3 Thought Scour
4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
2 Past in Flames
1 Empty the Warrens
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
1 Shivan Reef
1 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
3 Blood Moon
2 Echoing Truth
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Empty the Warrens
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Who Is Gifts Storm for?
Storm historically has been a mechanically intensive puzzle deck that takes even the most seasoned players a few practice games to truly grasp. This storm deck is actually one of the most straightforward and least punishing versions of the deck to play. Gifts Ungiven makes the play patterns pretty forgiving, as resolving one with a few spells in your hand is almost a guaranteed win. As with most combo decks, the mulligan decisions are among the easiest to get wrong and are learned mostly over time playing with the deck.
Storm is a relatively uninteractive deck, so if you’re not a person with the time to put in to learn every matchup, it might be a good choice. Outside of the small subset of hate cards that hose spells (i.e. Eidolon of the Great Revel, Ethersworn Canonist, and Eidolon of Rhetoric); cards that hate on the graveyard (Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus, Rest in Peace); and cards that stop Gifts Ungiven (Leyline of Sanctity, Leonin Arbiter), there aren’t a ton of cards that you have to care about. I’d say this is a good deck for someone who likes to play Modern but doesn’t have a ton of time to keep up with all the reactive cards that the more interactive decks need to stay competitive.
The Future of Storm
Unlike my last deck tech on Cheeri0s, Storm really doesn’t play any cards that are risky. When Wizards decided to ban Seething Song, I became skeptical that there would ever be a time when it was reasonable to play but not overly powerful. Dredge has a similar problem where it’s basically unplayable or totally busted. This version of Storm might have finally found the middle ground that will keep it relevant without making it public enemy #1. A lot of this has to do with the fact that its main engine revolves around creatures and not the spells themselves. Having a hand full of rituals doesn’t really get you anywhere without a Baral or an Electromancer to give you a discount. Since both creatures are fairly frail, it’s not terribly difficult to interact with this Storm deck even without dedicated hate cards, and especially in game one.
That being said, I don’t think there is a particularly large amount of growth potential for the deck. The win conditions (Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot) will probably continue to be the only storm cards available in Modern for basically forever. Storm is a mechanic (like dredge) that Mark Rosewater has consistently said will not return to Standard. Given the fact that only Standard sets can feed new cards into Modern, it’s unlikely you will get any reprints of other storm cards that are not currently legal (Brain Freeze or Tendrils of Agony, for example), or any new ones to give you more flexibility. What I’m trying to say is you had better like grapeshotting people to death and have a favorite Goblin token that you can buy in bulk.
I’m also not really sure what supporting cast of spells you can add to this deck that would make it better. There may be some marginal upgrades for Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, or Thought Scour, but they wouldn’t radically change the deck. For the most part, this is a deck that won’t change very much and will require minimal upkeep to play.
Normally, the core of a deck is all of the cards that aren’t replaceable—the absolutely necessary components that make it tick. Given how tight the Storm deck actually is, I’d say everything but the lands is basically irreplaceable. The consistency and power of the deck come from just playing the best card in every slot.
Which Purchases to Prioritize
Even though you really don’t have a lot of places where you can make substitutions, there are definitely some important cards I would recommend purchasing before the others. I was actually just starting to build this deck myself, and the first thing I made sure to do was to get myself 4 Gifts Ungiven. Gifts is the card most likely to have supply problems if the Storm deck gets more popular, and of the expensive cards in the deck it’s the least likely to get reprinted. The next card I suggest you invest in might surprise you a little. I think Steam Vents is finally poised to see some steeper increases because the most expensive blue staples and support cards are getting reprinted. At some point, shocklands are going to be the oldest cards without a reprint and will start to have some serious budget implications. So if you don’t own Steam Vents yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a few.
After those two cards, you can just work on the cheaper stuff. Manamorphose is something I might wait until the end of this week to buy (to see if it’s in Modern Masters 2017), but the rest of the commons and uncommons are pretty cheap. The total cost of the non-rare cards in the main deck is about $60. After that you can work on the few rares that are also pretty cheap. In fact, most of this deck’s value is actually in the Scalding Tarns and sideboard Blood Moons. You can probably get a full working copy of the main deck for $200-300.
The last few cards you should work on are in the sideboard. Assuming you’re starting today, by that point it will probably be long past the release of Modern Masters 2017 so you will know if Blood Moon got reprinted. I don’t yet, so I’m going to suggest you work on that card first. It’s definitely the most high-impact card you can bring out of your sideboard. A lot of decks can just be cold to a turn-two Blood Moon (via a ritual) and you still have Manamorphose to make blue mana.
The mana is really the only compromise you can make while building Gifts Storm at this point. I’m not sure that it will even be worth the compromise after the fetchland reprint, but basically you can use any blue fetch instead of Scalding Tarn if you have them handy. There is only 1 basic Mountain in the deck and I’ve played probably 100 games with the deck and only fetched it a handful of times.
After Assembling the First 60
Due to the newness of this deck, it’s really hard to predict what kind of sideboard cards you will need. What I know is that the common thread between the decklists I’ve seen is Blood Moon, Lightning Bolt, and Echoing Truth. Those three cards are most of what you’ll need in a lot of matchups but there are definitely a few other cards that I’ve seen make splashes in sideboards.
If you play against a lot of aggro decks like Burn or Affinity at your local game store, then there are some sweet sideboard packages that you might want to consider. Some decks change a maindeck Island to a Hallowed Fountain to play an Unburial Rites package in the sideboard with Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Iona, Shield of Emeria. Another transformational plan is Madcap Experiment plus Platinum Emperion, which eats up more sideboard space but is faster overall.
Past those cards, there is a lot up in the air. You can play whatever cards are most appropriate for your local meta. Shattering Spree is great against Chalice of the Void, Anger of the Gods against Zoo and Dredge, Shatterstorm against Affinity, etc.
Modern Masters Spoilers
Well I’m sure by the time you read this they will have spoiled something else unbelievable. It’s clear thus far that MM3 is much more like the original Modern Masters than Modern Masters 2015. The set is going to be great to draft and great to open. The pack value will be pretty high because the rares in the set so far are actually quite good.
The main problem with the last Masters set was the real lack of quality uncommons. At the time, Eldrazi Temple wasn’t very good or worth much of anything. Right now, the four most expensive uncommons in Modern Masters 2015 are Eldrazi Temple, Remand, Lightning Bolt, and Expedition Map. So far the new set has Molten Rain, Harmonize, Terminate, Inquisition of Kozilek, Path to Exile, and Might of Old Krosa, many of which are worth more than $5.
If you have any sealed product preordered you will likely enjoy it. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t bother. The opened product will fall quickly and you’ll probably have two good weekends to buy in. Keep an eye on TCGPlayer on release weekend and the weekend after. That is likely to be the lowest point in the near future for everything in the set. It’s too early to give a good estimate of the ball park of where cards may end up but I think it will slash cards prices in half at the very least.
If you’re looking to buy into a new Modern deck or finish one you’ve already started, you need to keep track of what cards are spoiled for those decks. The Arid Mesa and Goblin Guide reprints have sent Eidolon of the Great Revel soaring because it’s not eligible for reprint this time. If Tarmogoyf isn’t in the set this time, or they don’t reprint Noble Hierarch again, those too could see price increases due to the availability of new cards.
This week also saw Rite of Passage trending up quickly because of its infinite combo with Hardened Scales plus Walking Ballista. It’s probably not going to be a real thing, so I would recommend selling any copies you own. Also, if you purchased any reprinted cards from Coolstuff Inc or Channel Fireball, they are offering a full refund on those cards in store credit if you’re interesting in purchasing something else.
Hopefully whatever card you need to finish your deck gets spoiled soon! The full spoiler for Modern Masters 2017 will be up Friday—next week I’ll talk about its implications.
Jim Casale is a well-established Magic player who has plenty of experience grinding the tournament circuit. He qualified for his first Pro Tour in 2016 and likes to talk about hockey. You can find him on Twitter @Phrost_.