Too-Specific Top 10 - Counter Spellslinger

(Radstorm | Art by Salvatore Zee Yazzie)

Spells. Damage.

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Venerated Rotpriest is the only one-mana permanent that can give your opponent's Poison counters without combat damage?)

I have a confession to make: I. Love. Two word spells.

Simplicity. Complexity. All mashed up together in two keywords. How could you not love it?

Well, there's a new one coming out of Fallout spoilers, and I'm more in love than ever.

Radstorm takes Fan Favorite keyword Proliferate and gives it a whole new edge with another fan favorite keyword, Storm. The result? A cavalcade of counters that very well might end up winning you the game on the spot. The only question is: How?

Top 10 Radstorm Finishers

While the most likely way that most folks are going to go about winning the game outright with Radstorm probably begins and ends with the word "Poison", I think that's really oversimplifying things. To explain why, let's take a look at one of my favorite decks.

Commander (2)
Lands (32)
Creatures (4)
Artifacts (7)
Instants (16)
Planeswalkers (14)
Sorceries (25)
Enchantments (2)

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Superspells is exactly what it sounds like: A Superfriends deck that also wants to sling spells. For those that haven't seen me previously gush about all things Will Kenrith, let me sum it up for you the same way that I do to folks when they sit down at the table: If you let me untap with Will in play, I will win the game. Does that make me public enemy number one? Yes. Is that a fun place to be sometimes? Also yes.

In any case, though, I will be making room in this deck for Radstorm, as it's essentially just what the doctor ordered: A Storm deck that also cares about permanents with counters on them. As a deck that's bound to draw 20ish cards during a successful Storm turn that also plays 16 planeswalkers, there's essentially no way that I couldn't end up with a lethal board state with a few unactivated planeswalkers and Radstorm on the stack.

Planeswalker ultimates aren't the only way to win a game with massive amounts of counters in a spells deck, however. So... what are some other ones?

Criteria: Non-planeswalker permanents that put counters on permanents or players that can also deal damage to players with said counters in some fashion not limited by the aspects of the card (sorry, Smoldering Egg and Urabrask), not including combat damage or effects that have an additional requirement such as mana or sacrificing a creature. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Flaming Tyrannosaurus

(4,801 Inclusions, 1% of 344,261 Decks)

On the one hand, I don't really understand the hype around Flaming Tyrannosaurus. It's a seven-mana monstrosity that doesn't do much on its own. On the other hand, it's a Flaming Tyrannosaurus that Lightning Bolts things whenever you cast from odd zones. Whether you're leaning more toward your analytical or child brain, however, when it comes to Flaming Tyrannosaurus and Radstorm, there is some limited synergy there to explore. To be clear, you will not get free Lightning Bolts with each copy of Radstorm on the stack, which is a real shame. The reason is twofold: Storm does not cast, it simply copies, and copies of spells don't come "from" anywhere, they simply appear on the stack.

What you will get, however, is a massive flaming dinosaur that will, upon shuffling off this mortal coil, probably just outright kill each opponent. And honestly, who could pick a better way to go out?

9. Deathbringer Thoctar

(5,783 Inclusions, 1% of 781,656 Decks)

Deathbringer Thoctar might seem like another sort of Timmy/Tammy experience, but a perusal of its combo page on Commander Spellbook will tell you otherwise. With Thoctar's twin +1/+1 counter abilities, it is a simple enough procedure to find a means of giving it deathtouch to wipe the whole board, but that's kind of child's play. The more advanced version is to find a means of giving it Undying, bringing it back from the dead with a +1/+1 counter on it that you can then remove with its ability, letting you loop it with a sacrifice outlet infinitely.

None of which really helps out with Radstorm. Don't get me wrong, putting 20 +1/+1 counters on Thoctar is a good move, and very well might end up with you winning the game, but it's also not really something you can rely on. Your 23/23 will likely be dealt with, and you'll likely get a one-sided board wipe on its way out with some collateral damage to players. Simple math will tell you, however, that 20 damage is nowhere near the 120 you need to close out a game.

8. Lux Artillery

(7,405 Inclusions, 0% of 2,104,748 Decks)

Likewise, 10 damage is not 40. That 10 damage a turn is a heck of a clock however, and in a deck that's even considering playing Lux Artillery and Radstorm, garnering 30 counters on your artifacts and creatures is not going to be a hard thing to do. While this is still slower than I'd like to be going, there's really no question that it's effective, and the Sunburst it grants along the way will get you pretty far in combat as well.

7. Shalai and Hallar

(Helms 5,113 Decks, Rank #165; 5,215 Inclusions, 2% of 208,903 Decks)

You'd have to be in at least four colors to take advantage of Radstorm with Shalai and Hallar, but man, oh man when you do the sparks are gonna fly. That is, only if you've developed a board state that can make those sparks happen in the first place. The downside to Shalai and Hallar, after all, is the fact that the Angel Elf pairing does nothing to actually put +1/+1 counters on anything, with the same kind of being true of Radstorm as well. Proliferate can be extremely powerful with a board full of Hydras and Spikes, but for every time that happens, there's another time that your whole board of various counters just got wiped, and you drawing your Proliferate spell off the top is just a timely kick in the shins.

With all that said, the time you pull off a Radstorm and a Shalai and Hallar with a decently sized board, you do just win the game.

6. Aria of Flame

(12,450 Inclusions, 1% of 1,630,771 Decks)

For me and my Storm sensibilities, however, you're not going to find a better win with Radstorm than Aria of Flame. While things may seem a bit clunky, as you can only target one player at a time with Aria's ability and you only get one trigger from all the Radstorm copies to deal damage, you have to remember that you're doing this on a Storm turn. What I mean by that is, the general turn that you resolve a Radstorm with an Aria of Flame sounds something like this:

"All right, Jeska's Will, Steve, you take one. Let's roll that into Seething Song just to make sure I have enough mana, Steven, you take two. Let's see, need some cards, so let's go ahead and use that Frantic Search from the Jeska's Will, Stephen, you take three. Okay, now we're cooking with gas, how about an Inspired Tinkering -Steven you take four- into a Wheel of Fortune now that I've got all these cards in exile. Oh yeah, Steven, go ahead and take five. Okay, full grip and five cards in exile, got three more rituals and four more card draw spells, and oh man, I didn't even see that Radstorm, this is gonna be good!"

5. Triskelion

(18,216 Inclusions, 1% of 3,405,101 Decks)

Everything I said about Deathbringer Thoctar applies here, except Triskelion does even less. In fact, let's be real, no one is playing this card anymore unless they're comboing with it, and that combo has nothing to do with Radstorm.

4. All Will Be One

(31,896 Inclusions, 3% of 1,008,543 Decks)

If we take it as a given that we're talking about an entirely different deck, All Will Be One is nonetheless even better than Aria of Flame. Put simply, this cumulates nicely with every copy of Radstorm that resolves, giving us a nice multiplication chart of X times Y.

X is the amount of things with counters on them on the board (don't remember the last time I was at a table where this was zero), and Y is the amount of Radstorm copies you end up resolving. Who said math couldn't be fun? Steve, take 42.

3. Juri, Master of the Revue

(Helms 4,289 Decks, Rank #222; 32,812 Inclusions, 4% of 781,656 Decks)

Unfortunately, there's no delightful multiplication when it comes to Juri, Master of the Revue. Instead, her net effect ends up even worse than Deathbringer Thoctar's or Triskelion's, merely providing you with a one-time damage to a single target. Add in the fact that you only even get that if you'd managed to sacrifice something before proliferating, and this one does not spark joy with Radstorm.

2. Descent into Avernus

(37,947 Inclusions, 3% of 1,458,490 Decks)

Descent into Avernus, however, gets my vote as my favorite finisher with Radstorm, hands down. Going back to our divide over Flaming Tyrannosaurus, if I'm using my analytical brain, then All Will Be One and Aria of Flame are just better, every time. If I'm using my crazy "kid wants number to go up and cause mayhem" brain, however, then Descent into Avernus is the winner, hands down. Sure, the counters won't do anything until your next upkeep, and it's liable that by then you'll either have it removed or the table will have skewed the math so that you end up killing yourself. All these things are possible, and even likely.

For the times where it works out, however? That turn where you untap and the whole table plops down 20 Treasures for 20 damage is gonna be amazing one way or the other.

1. Walking Ballista

(96,020 Inclusions, 3% of 3,405,101 Decks)

Walking Ballista does feel a bit better than Deathbringer Thoctar and Triskelion, just given its smaller mana cost, but it sadly remains in the boring math place as well. "One copy = One damage" is just not that compelling when you're talking about a four-mana Storm spell, even if you didn't have access to Grapeshot. Still, if you're in a counter deck, you're likely to be playing the Ballista, and it's not like you won't take the extra damage!

Honorable Mentions

All in all, I feel like I was a bit dismissive of planeswalkers, as it's going to be difficult to find decks outside of Will Kenrith that are able to have enough planeswalkers to take advantage of Radstorm while also not having such a high mana curve that you'd never be able to get a Storm turn going on your own. Still, there are a bunch of planeswalker ultimates that do more or less say "you win the game" on them, and it would be a shame to not take a look at those options.

Top 10 Planeswalker Ultimates

  1. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
  2. Liliana, Dreadhorde General
  3. Elspeth, Sun's Champion
  4. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
  5. Garruk, Primal Hunter
  6. Nissa, Who Shakes the World
  7. Chandra, Torch of Defiance
  8. Daretti, Scrap Savant
  9. Teferi, Master of Time
  10. Vraska, Betrayal's Sting

Not every single one of these says "you win the game" on them, but a decent amount do, and for the rest you've got to think of the deck that wants to both play that planeswalker and is confident it can resolve a meaningful Radstorm. There seems to be quite a bit of overlap cases where that could be possible for just about this entire list, although I will say that none of them sparks quite as much joy as Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

As for other finishers we missed? Well, there's still a few.

Taking a break from damage for a moment, it's hard not to smile at the thought of resolving a Radstorm at the end of another player's turn for just enough copies to let you untap and win with Azor's Elocutors. It'd be hard to find the Group Hug deck that wanted to win that way, but certainly not impossible!

In all reality, however, if you're playing Radstorm, you're most likely playing a Storm deck with a few finishers in it that care about counters. Well, if you're looking for a few more, then look no further than Firemind's Research and Sphinx-Bone Wand.

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion…), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

The one thing I have sort of dismissed when it comes to Radstorm, despite my proclivity for Wing Shards, is playing it in decks that don't have a Storm plan of their own. In a superfriends deck, a Sagas deck, or really any kind of deck that is playing other Proliferate options, getting four or more Proliferate triggers could be lethal. So, the question is, do you think you can pull that off on the regular?

And finally, what is your favorite finisher with Radstorm? Would you build around it in a Storm deck, or in a more common Proliferate fashion?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the Lego table that just keeps building itself.

Read more:

Too-Specific Top 10 - cEDH Sorceries

Mechanical Memories - Storm: The Problem Child

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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