I played Faeries at Nationals, more or less Yuuya’s list. I wasn’t terribly happy with the choice, as Stags and Fallouts were obviously everywhere, but I’m sure I would have been more miserable playing anything else. Even when you can’t rely on Fae for match wins it can pretty reliably deliver interesting games. Here are some of the more memorable games from the tournament.
Round One I’m paired against Seth Manfield, fielding Jund. In Game One I Mistbind Seth (championing Sprite) when he has just a Boggart Ram-Gang in play, with me at 12 and him at 20, and he chooses not to attack into the Mistbind. This works out well enough for him, as I have another Mistbind for his next turn, and would have been pretty happy championing a 1/1 Mistbind. The problem comes on his next turn. I attack him down to a convenient 16 with the first Mistbind, and upkeep the second, championing a Mutavault. He has a Makeshift Mannequin getting back a dead Ram-Gang, but then doesn’t attack his two Rang-Gangs into the one Mistbind.
This play confuses me at first, as he turned a race ((incorrectly) assuming I chose to race) he was winning on the board (a 4/4 Mistbind and a 1/1 Mistbind putting him on a five turn clock, versus the one Ram-Gang he would have left putting me on a three turn clock) into a race that I was winning on the board (we both were on two turn clocks, but I had the first turn in the race). Attacking here puts him in a much better position on the board, so clearly he has something in hand that makes him think attacking is wrong – hello Maelstrom Pulse. I send both Mistbinds, and on his turn he baits with a third Ram-Gang which I Doom Blade (so as to not die to double Lightning Bolt). He has the Pulse, but I have a Sprite and he is dead. The problem with Seth’s play is that if I have basically anything at all, he is just cold. He felt like he needed me to have nothing to win the game, but that didn’t seem to be the case to me. If he makes the attack, the board is my 4/4 and 1/1 Mistbinds versus his Ram-Gang, and his Ram-Gang, Pulse, and two unknowns in hand to my three cards, with life totals 16 to 9 in his favor. If all I have in hand is one counterspell, then we are basically at parity. If I have more than that, then he is behind but has some time to draw out of it. If I have all blanks, then he is ahead a Ram-Gang and I am on a two turn clock. The way Seth played, he was straight up dead to a single counterspell (he is pretty much just dead to a Scion or Mistbind regardless), with no chance to draw out of it. If I have nothing, then he is two Ram-Gangs up on the board, leaving me super dead. Is that situation really worth maximizing, at the expense of the others, given what a bad spot I am in regardless if I have nothing? It is so unlikely that I am holding all blanks that I don’t think getting so greedy with the Pulse was justifiable.
LSV and I were in the same pod for the first draft, and as the only two Esper drafters at the table, sitting at opposite ends, we both end up with pretty nice decks (highlights for me included 8th and 9th pick Kiss of the Amesha). We play in round six and have a rather odd game three. I have a 2/1 Grixis Grimblade staring down his Aven Squire (I am ahead on life totals), but neither of us are casting any spells. I have stone nothing but lands in hand, and figure that Luis is trying to play around Soul Manipulation. On turn eight I draw a Sanctum Plowbeast and even wait a turn to play it so as to continue representing Soul Manipulation, missing three damage in the process. It turns out that Luis is in the same exact spot as me – mono lands, and assuming that I had been trying to play around his Soul Manipulation. He awkwardly ends up taking 20 from just the Grimblade (Yeah, that was a real nice game – LSV).
You are probably not aware of this, but LSV is quite the sore loser. I assume you are not aware of this because, well, he never loses. I wasn’t even aware of this until, as punishment for beating him with my double Jhessian Lookout deck, he downgraded the card he links my name to from Sygg, River Cutthroat to Jhessian Lookout. I suppose it could be worse – at least I’m not a Kithkin.
In round nine, the second draft (this time with a much worse Esper deck), I have a fake feature match against Gindy. In game one Gindy mulligans on the draw into turn three Wooly Thoctar, and I take one hit from the Thoctar then another when it gets a Welkin Guide boost. Two forced trades and four chump attacks later, Hissing Iguanar has burned me out from eight life. Gindy draws poorly in game two, and in game three he again mulligans into turn three Thoctar, this time on the play with a bonus turn two Stun Sniper. I eventually stabilize at two life with Bant Sureblade, Sigiled Paladin, a 3/3 Arsenal Thresher, Fatestitcher, Aven Trailblazer, double Talon Trooper, and Ardent Plea, versus his Druid of the Anima, Stun Sniper, Wooly Thoctar, and Kranioceros (with for all intents and purposes infinite toughness). Fatestitcher and Stun Sniper are essentially trading, so Kranioceros has me in The Abyss, while my flyers are clocking him. The three flyers attack Gindy down to eight, leaving three blockers back for his two lethal attackers plus Stun Sniper. Gindy had been holding Jund Hackblade, which I had seen in a previous game, and kills me with it.
Gindy seemed to think I punted the game, but even in hindsight I think my play was correct (barring a sick read on him holding the Hackblade, which I obviously did not have). My play left me ahead on the board, as I could chump his Kranioceros, then send one flyer to attack for four, leaving back four blockers. This would let me survive him topdecking a (non-haste) dude on his second to last turn, and let me crack back for lethal the following turn. My play left me dead to Hackblade or any topdecked removal spell, but I didn’t have the luxury of playing around those. If I tried to, and instead of attacking with all three flyers only sent one in to knock Gindy to ten life, I would be reducing my clock by a turn, which would leave Gindy beating me on the board. I then have to peel out of not only already being behind in the race by a turn, but also the Hackblade/removal that I am trying to play around. It is so unlikely that I could draw out of that position if he does have the Hackblade/removal that the right play was to play as if he would not have it. Playing in fear would likely have cost me the game even had he not had the Hackblade/removal.
I was not a fan of Baneslayer Angel in 5cc going into Nats, but gained a lot of respect for the card from the tournament. This is not to say that I think it is better than Broodmate Dragon in general, but I do think that Baneslayer adds more to the Faeries matchup, at least as long as Fae is skimping on Doom Blades. It used to be that 5cc had no real way to punish Fae at five mana; the worst they could do is play a Mulldrifter. Not that a kicked Mulldrifter resolving is good for Fae, but it is hardly game over the way that a Baneslayer sticking is. The difference between five and six mana is so huge in the matchup. In the early turns Faeries often wants to be tapping out on its turn, whether for fighting to stick a Bitterblossom or Jace, or countering an Esper Charm, or dealing with a Plumeveil, or whatever. The point at which this has to stop has always been at Broodmate and Cruel mana. Not only can the five mana bomb catch Faeries players off guard, or catch me off guard at any rate, but even when they are prepared for it, having one less turn being able to set up using mana main phase is pretty problematic. In round eleven against Max Tietze I lost two quick games to Baneslayer Angel that I think would have been routs in my favor had Baneslayer instead been Broodmate Dragon, as Broodmate would never have resolved. In game one it caught me by surprise after unnecessarily fighting over something, and it finished me off in short order. In game two I moved in on double Bitterblossom on my fifth turn, after my first Bitterblossom was Esper Charmed away, and sure enough was punished again by the turn five Angel. On multiple other occasions throughout the tournament, I found myself in positions where I was afraid of Baneslayer Angel but Broodmate was not an issue.
I guess that about does it; the rest of my Nationals involved me playing in the Draft Challenge and ending up with a deck with four Jhessian Lookouts (guess how that ended) and putting my advice into action in various team drafts. It’s too bad Shards is basically done as a format, since I was just beginning to explore the intricacies of various Jhessian Lookout-based archetypes.
(Josh is right about me being a sore loser; just look at what happens when he lets me write the conclusion! – LSV)