Legacy Lessons: All about Flusterstorm

by Philipp Schonegger on 09 December 2015, Wednesday

Philipp Schonegger

Welcome back to another installment of Legacy Lessons. Today’s topic will be a card that you should be playing more of. And if you’re not playing any, then you better have a good reason for it. Such as, not playing the colors necessary to cast it.







So, what is Flusterstorm?


At first it may appear just as if it was just a clearly inferior Force Spike. When looking closer you might be able to identify the Storm ability and conclude that in fact this card is just a worse Spell Pierce in most scenarios as you cannot hit enchantments, artifacts and planeswalkers.


Force Spike Spell Pierce


But in fact, Flusterstorm is one of the best counterspells in this format as of now.




What's One Blue Mana Worth?


What is the power Flusterstorm, exactly?


Well, first and foremost, having a counterspell with the Storm mechanic is huge. It does several things, all of which are positive. It quite obviously serves as one of the most powerful counterspells you can have if your opponent decides it’s time to point a lethal Tendrils of Agony at your face. But it’s more than just an anti-Storm card.




It’s also excellent at fighting off Stifle in the early stages of the game while also providing a powerful card against Show and Tell that largely disables the opponent from interacting, unless they also have access to Flusterstorm. Things don’t stop here but more on the individual strengths and weaknesses of Flusterstorm later.


So where do we localize Flusterstorm on the wide array of different counterspells?


Force of Will Daze


This largely depends on which deck you’re playing as the role of Flusterstorms obviously changes when the deck that capitalizes on the card does. But to make a general characterization: It’s not a free counter spell. Arguably, this is outrageously obvious but it’s important to keep in mind in Legacy as the most prominent counterspells are Force of Will and Daze, which are free in most cases. Due to this innate mana cost of greater than zero, namely U, Flusterstorm is necessarily put in a different league of spells, a league in which it gets its chance to shine.


Spell Snare Envelop


There are not that many counters that cost just U and are playable in Legacy. Cards like Divert and Force Spike are legal cards in Legacy but are hardly ever played. Spell Snare, Spell Pierce and Envelop on the other hand pose more serious competition to Flusterstorm and may warrant a few lines.


Spell Snare fills a completely different role as Flusterstorm does, in terms of usability and general slots you dedicate for either card. Things are different with Spell Pierce, however, as these cards show up in very similar places and are trying to fulfil the same role more often than not.


The one plus that Spell Pierce necessarily has is that it can hit cards that Flusterstorm cannot. Due to the way this advantage is worded it appears as if there was nothing one could do about it, and that is right.




So What's the Real Difference?


In pretty much any other aspect, however, Flusterstorm is superior due to one simple fact:


If your opponent starts off with a spell and you cast your U costed counterspell (Spell Pierce or Flusterstorm) you have a very similar result. But even here Flusterstorm has the leg up as it disables the opponent from just using a single counter to negate Flusterstorm. Interestingly enough, though, in any other scenario that involves more interaction from either side Flusterstorm is better from a pure numerical perspective as to how many mana they have to pay, even ignoring the fact that it’s actually several small spells, which is another upside.


Spell Pierce


And again it doesn’t really come back to the card itself but the environment in which it is used. Advocates of Spell Pierce wouldn’t really choose to question the actual power of Flusterstorm and would rather withdraw to a position that they can technically win, the limited application of Flusterstorm.


Numerically speaking, Spell Pierce has more legal targets in Legacy. No question about it.


When choosing which card to pick and whether the counterspells in question should be in the maindeck or rather sideboard is a question that cannot be answered without any deck context. So let’s now take a look at which decks can and should actually play Flusterstorm.


All that can should. Well, not quite, but it’s very close. Decks that can and should utilize Flusterstorm range across all spectrums. The obvious candidates are Miracles, Stoneblade, Team America, Canadian Threshold and Show and Tell. It may as well be a sin not playing Flusterstorm in said decks.


But even candidates that may not be prime examples should be playing more Flusterstorms. Shardless BUG, despite its prominent and namesake card Shardless Agent can utilize Flusterstorm. Same is true for some variants of Storm.




Strengths & Weaknesses


After having looked at how Flusterstorm compares to other counters and which decks can play it, it might be time to finally understand why this card is as essential to Legacy gameplay as of now and what its strengths and weaknesses are.


First and foremost, the offensive stopping power of Flusterstorm is unparalleled in Legacy. And by offensive I mean the ability to stop opposing cards, given the card itself can be hit by Flusterstorm and poses the problem in itself. Prime examples of this would be Show and Tell and Entreat the Angels. These cards typically signal the end of the game, and an unfortunate at that, for you.


Show and Tell Entreat the Angels


Due to the fact that these cards aren’t typically cast in an environment with a lot of free mana or are usually preceded by other spells means that Flusterstorm is the prime card to stop said cards. The opponent will have to have a Flusterstorm on their own or might as well concede the counter war as it is mind-bogglingly hard to fight off a Flusterstorm without having access to either one of your own or a Stifle to counteract the Storm trigger.


Accordingly, Flusterstorm isn’t as good when used on the other side of the problem. If you are trying to protect your Entreat the Angels with a Flusterstorm, then your card loses a lot of its power unless you are also facing a Flusterstorm. (more on the Flusterstorm vs Flusterstorm later) The opponent will simply be able to let your counter resolve and continue pointing their spells at the crucial card. Flusterstorm isn’t necessarily bad here, but certainly not the powerhouse it appears to be in other scenarios.


Generally speaking, mana is a scarce resource in Legacy.


Some decks try to capitalize on that by pressuring this axis of gameplay while also backing this strategy up with cheap counters. Flusterstorm is therefore excellent at countering this as it’s arguably the best spell to counteract Stifle, which is due to the fact that it gets very hard for them to tax Flusterstorm due to the fact that is appears as at least two Force Spikes, which in turn lets you get more lands to continue your game plan.




"But Ma, I want my Pierces!"


Another key difference between Spell Pierce and Flusterstorm is that both are great in the early game, but Flusterstorm hardly loses its power in the late stages of the game.


Spell Pierce


Admittedly, there are situations where Flusterstorm is indeed lackluster in the late game but it’s generally way more likely that you’ll not just be able to somehow capitalize on Flusterstorm but actually utilize its full potential. Having a hand full of interaction plus Flusterstorm is so much better than having a hand full of interaction plus a Spell Pierce, one should see that.


Now, Flusterstorm seems to be a great card against Miracles, Delver, Storm and Show and Tell. These are arguably the best and most successful decks in Legacy. Why don’t we play Flusterstorm in the maindeck and still default to Spell Pierce?


There’s two answers to this.


Firstly, Spell Pierce is still an excellent maindeck card for some decks. And it isn’t because the card is more effective at what it does (it’s not) – it’s because of its flexibility of use. Being stranded with dead cards in the first game of a match is generally not something you would ever want to happen. That’s why you are better off being safe than sorry when it comes to game 1.


Secondly, maybe it’s wrong that so few people play Flusterstorms in the mainboard. A few years ago I played an invitational tournament in Vienna that I organized. Most people knew each other and so many people had a good idea of what was going to be played. All of us expected a lot of Delver and Combo. (Storm and Show and Tell)


So what did I do?


Rest in Peace


Well, I decided to maindeck 4 Rest in Peace and 4 Flusterstorm in my Miracles. How did this experiment work out, you might ask? Well, I made it to the Top 8 dispatching Delver and Combo left and right only to get destroyed by Esper Stoneblade, a deck that I did not anticipate in the slightest when constructing my 75. Now what can we learn from this anecdotal piece of evidence.


Frankly, not much, it’s just a story but it still shows how powerful correct metagaming can be. I do, however, not advocate such a drastic approach in the current metagame, which gets back to what I’ve been talking about when highlighting the worse power level but higher applicability of Spell Pierce.


The story is a different one when we’re looking at the sideboard. To be frank, in a metagame that is dominated by Delver, Miracles and Combo, it appears to be delusional at best to skip on Flusterstorm altogether. Not only is it applicable in so many different fields of Legacy, it’s also incredibly important in each and every single one of these match-ups. It either stops their game winning cards or is a great counteracting tool to their primary game plan. Not including this card seems like a big mistake to me.




Two Scenarios


Let’s now look at two scenarios that occur with Flusterstorm that are worth mentioning.


The first one is when both you and your opponent have Flusterstorm.


If both you and your opponent do not have untapped lands left, things appear to be quite easy. If you do, however, you have to start thinking. Things to keep in mind here is that the player who’ll cast the 2nd Flusterstorm will have at least one more copy. This sounds great at first, but isn’t really that much of a big deal. In order to demonstrate this, let’s look at an example where two players are fighting over a Lightning Bolt.


Lightning Bolt



Player 1 has Tropical Island and Volcanic Island in play and a Flusterstorm plus a Lightning Bolt in hand.


Player 2 has two Tundras in play and a Flusterstorm in hand.


Player 1 casts Lightning Bolt, using Volcanic Island. Player 2 casts Flusterstorm, using Tundra.


Player 1 casts Flusterstorm on Flusterstorm, using Tropical Island.


Now we have two Flusterstorms on Ligthning Bolt and three copies of Flusterstorm targeting two copies of Flusterstorm, which means that one copy of Flusterstorm is being targeted by two other Flusterstorms.


All Player 2 has to do now is to pay for the one copy of Flusterstorm that is targeting the single Flusterstorm, targeting the Lightning Bolt, having the Lightning Bolt countered.


Granted, this sounds like basic level Magic, right?


Let me tell you, in a real life tournament it’s not. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve witnessed or used the lack of understanding of Flusterstorm and its actual mechanics, especially when coupled with free mana. All you have to take away from this is to think twice when there’s a Flusterstorm involved on either side of the board and there are still lands that can be used for mana. It might save you at some point in your Legacy career.


The second scenario that can occur that is worth mentioning is that, Flusterstorm has the ability to hit more than one card.




Avowedly, this doesn’t happen very often, but whenever it does, you feel like you’ve broken a rule. Whenever this actually happens, it’s very often preceded by trapping your opponent into it, for example by responding with a Brainstorm of your own to a spell of theirs, just to make them jump the gun and fire off a Brainstorm on their own. It’s not really something you’ll be able to abuse on a regular basis but it’s still important to know.




Flustered Yet?



Concluding, I’d strongly advise pretty much every one of you to at least consider integrating more Flusterstorms in your sideboard.


A card that is not only playable but increasingly powerful against most of the top decks sounds too good to be true. Not having Flusterstorm in your sideboard forces you to play more dedicated answers to cards like Show and Tell and Entreat the Angels while forgetting, that the answer could be simply.


Flusterstorm is one of the most underrated cards right now, and not playing any is something you will regret at some point, trust me on this.


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