In many cases, as more and more powerful cards get added to a format, some archetypes get slowly pushed out due to power creep and metagame shifts. Over the past few years, especially since the release of Modern Horizons II, there have been a multitude of previously well-established strategies that fallen by the wayside. For instance, in Modern, there were points where both five-color Humans and Infect had their time in the sun. Unfortunately, since the printing of cards like Fury, these decks have largely disappeared.
Another interesting deck that fell out of favor over time was Storm in Modern. While the printing of Beseech the Mirror was quite helpful for black-based Storm decks in Eternal formats, Modern Storm shells have traditionally been Izzet to accommodate Gifts Ungiven and Past in Flames. As a handful of more reliable combo decks became more popular in Modern, such as Living End or Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo, Storm in its traditional form lacked the tools to compete.
For Storm enjoyers, though, it appears as though not all hope is lost. Thanks to a handful of relatively new cards, winning with Grapeshot in Modern may be back on the menu. This past weekend, we saw a unique Gruul Storm deck make top eight of a Magic Online Modern Challenge, and it’s very different than typical Storm decks from years past.
The Storm Package
While this deck isn’t entirely reliant on casting Grapeshot to win all of its games, this is a very potent option to have, especially in games that go long. Rather than using Past in Flames, Gifts Ungiven, and a multitude of Rituals to build up your Storm count, this deck maximizes Underworld Breach. Underworld Breach is an insanely powerful card and makes executing a Grapeshot kill fairly easy.
While Izzet Storm decks used to play Goblin Electromancer, this deck plays Goblin Anarchomancer. Goblin Anarchomancer notably provides a discount to all of your red and green spells, not just Instants and Sorceries. With Goblin Anarchomancer and Underworld Breach in play, whenever you cast Manamorphose, you draw a card and net one mana. Assuming you have a stocked graveyard, you can keep casting Manamorphose, netting you mana. After generating some mana, you can now cast Grapeshot multiple times from the graveyard and kill your opponent via non-combat damage.
Even beyond Grapeshot, this deck can burn the opponent out with Lightning Bolt in a similar way. The key to making all of this possible, though, is making sure you have a large enough graveyard for Underworld Breach. Luckily, filling the graveyard is easier than it might sound.
Keeping the Graveyard Full
In order to fuel the graveyard without detracting from the overall card quality of the deck, this strategy makes use of a bunch of extremely efficient cantrips and ways to churn through your library. Manamorphose and Mishra’s Bauble are obviously good with Underworld Breach in play, but they also both essentially require no mana input and replace themselves with new cards. This helps fill your graveyard at very minimal cost.
In a similar sense, Abundant harvest is a cheap card that helps make sure you can hit your land drops. For actual card advantage, both Wrenn’s Resolve and the Adventure portion of Questing Druid help dig further for Underworld Breach.
Where things get even easier is when you have access to Dragon’s Rage Channeler. Dragon’s Rage Channeler lets you Surveil off of all of these cheap cards. Once Underworld Breach is in play, each time you cast Manamorphose from your graveyard by exiling three cards, you get to put another card into the graveyard from your library for each copy of Channeler in play. Add in the high density of Fetchlands in the deck, and it’s surprisingly easy to enable Underworld Breach. Three Channelers alongside a Manamorphose basically means you can draw your deck.
Solid Backup Plan
Despite the presence of Storm cards, this deck does need to function like an all-in combo deck. The reality is that Underworld Breach in many games will act simply as an elite value engine. Even if you cast Breach, cast Mishra’s Bauble a few times, then pass, you still ended up with a decent chunk of card advantage out of the deal.
This deck also can win games via attacking. Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer provide graveyard fuel and mana, respectively, which makes it easier to combo in the long run. Additionally, the damage from these Creatures adds up, and even if they can’t cross the finish line alone, this damage makes winning with Grapeshot or Lightning Bolt significantly easier.
The emergence of Questing Druid helps with this plan as well. The Adventure is obviously strong, especially in attrition battles. Questing Druid can grow extremely fast, though, helping to add extra pressure. If you can untap with Questing Druid, the synergy between Underworld Breach and Manamorphose becomes even more potent, as Questing Druid continues to grow larger and larger in the process.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The fact that this deck can win via combat damage or non-combat damage makes it tough to disrupt this deck on all angles. This deck can win relatively quickly, while the immense amount of card advantage available makes playing a long game an option as well. Being able to adjust your gameplan depending on the matchup is a nice option to have. In this way, this archetype showcases just how strong and versatile Questing Druid truly is.
That being said, being less streamlined has its downsides. Actually dealing a full 20 damage via attacking can be tough, so you are still somewhat reliant on Underworld Breach in conjunction with burn to close games. The problem is, in the face of graveyard hate, Underworld Breach is rendered mostly useless, forcing you to win via your backup plan. This problem is compounded by the fact that Dragon’s Rage Channeler becomes less of a threat as an attacker without Delirium. While the typical Modern Prowess decks played cards like Monastery Swiftspear or Sprite Dragon that could more easily close the game, this deck has a harder time.
Obviously, you can play answers to many of these hate cards in the sideboard. Destructive Revelry and Ancient Grudge can help get rid of the likes of Relic of Progenitus out of Tron, for instance. Playing around Endurance out of Yawgmoth combo is significantly more difficult, though. Endurance can completely wreck your gameplan when you cast Underworld Breach, and as a 3/4 with Reach, it often completely blanks your attacks.
As a result, this deck is not foolproof, but if players aren’t prepared with ideal sideboard cards, it can be quite effective. Your cards are very efficient in general, and when uninterrupted, you can win rather quickly. For players who miss casting Grapeshot in Modern, now may be your chance.