Vendilion Clique is an iconic card, played in Standard, Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage. The ability to disrupt, filter, attack, and even soft-lock an opponent at an affordable mana cost makes it unique. Despite its ubiquity, it’s also one of the most misplayed cards. Today, I’m here to break the card down as well as how it can be played to the best effect.
Let’s begin by going through each line of text:
Vendilion Clique - 1UU
The mana cost of 1UU means different things in different formats. Modern is currently a turn-3 format, so it’s actually too expensive and low impact to see significant play right now. When the format was a tad slower, Vendilion Clique saw a decent amount of play in Splinter Twin and Blue Moon strategies to clear the way for the combo or a game-ending Blood Moon.
In Legacy, Vendilion Clique is on the expensive end of the spectrum of cards that see play. But, the format is significantly slower than Modern and it is well positioned against the various turn-3-to-4 combo decks of the format like Show and Tell. Finally, it is blue, which means it can pitch to Force of Will.
Legendary Creature – Faerie Wizard
Gone are the days that Faeries was the best deck in the format. Nowadays, the important word here is “legendary.” Vendilion Clique combos well with Karakas, which together form a sort of soft lock. You can Clique your opponent during their draw step, and then rinse and repeat by returning your Clique to your hand via the Karakas. Joe Lossett is known for his signature “Legend” Miracles build and this is one of the key interactions in it. If you want to go deep, I’ve seen lists with Riptide Laboratory and Cavern of Souls as they also synergize with Snapcaster Mage.
When Vendilion Clique enters the battlefield, look at target player's hand. You may choose a nonland card from it. If you do, that player reveals the chosen card, puts it on the bottom of his or her library, then draws a card.
Here, we get down to some of the intricacies of the card. The optionality on the timing and targeting of Vendilion Clique makes it a powerful card, but also makes it difficult to play correctly. The most common error I see with the card is when players always target their opponents during their draw steps. Yes, an instant-speed Thoughtseize is powerful, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the default mode. Here are the important timings and targeting for the card, and when they should each be used.
Opponent’s draw step: If you are ahead and looking to close out the game by limiting their relevant draws, this is the correct play. In addition, if their deck consists mainly of sorcery-speed threats and you need to disrupt them, this is a good choice. Against Eldrazi, I almost always go for a draw-step Vendilion Clique.
In response to a combo card: Vendilion Clique can be played in response to a Show and Tell or even some Dark Rituals out of ANT. If they only have one relevant permanent to Show and Tell, or if they only have one relevant action card in Storm, then Vendilion Clique can win the game singlehandedly on the spot.
Let’s take a look at this exact situation in the finals of an SCG Legacy Open where Daryl Ayers is playing against Ross Merriam.
Here, there is a tiny window for casting the Clique to maximum effect. By casting Clique in response to the first Cabal Ritual, Daryl is able to strip Ross’ Infernal Tutor and end the chain. If he had elected to try and wait for the second Cabal Ritual he knew about, then Ross could have cast Infernal Tutor, retaining priority and casting the second Cabal Ritual to leave B floating. Then, he would have been hellbent. The second Cabal Ritual would resolve before the Infernal Tutor, giving Ross BBBBBB and the ability to tutor for a lethal Past in Flames. During this entire interaction, Daryl would not have priority to cast the Clique. So, the timing of Clique is vitally important when playing against ANT.
Another common timing is to cast Vendilion Clique in response to an opposing Jace Brainstorm on turn 4. This play is really powerful because it gives the opponent the fewest number of ways to draw a Force of Will for the Clique, and it is a clean answer for the Jace while leaving you with a 3/1.
Your own main phase, targeting yourself: This is a play that I routinely make, whether I’m playing Delver or Miracles. The secret is this: getting rid of a dead card and cycling it is almost as good as drawing a card. If a game has gone long and Daze is no longer relevant, or if I’m playing Miracles and I have a dud Terminus in my hand, you can bet that my first instinct is to get rid of it.
Your own main phase, targeting your opponent: Typically, I would make this play when my opponent is tapped out and unable to counter the Clique, or if I suspect they have removal and want to take it.
Your opponent’s end step: Often, when my deck is playing a diverse array of counterspells such as Spell Snare or Stifle, I may want to hold up these other countermagic options. Then, if I don’t play any of them, I may choose to cast the Clique.
Declare attackers step: Clique is big enough to trade with an Insectile Aberration, and sometimes a flash Clique can act as pseudo-removal.
In response to a miracle trigger: Miracles are actually triggers, so you can Clique your opponent’s Terminus while the miracle trigger is still on the stack.
Finally, the last decision with Vendilion Clique is what card to take and whether or not you should take a card with Vendilion Clique, assuming you have targeted your opponent. If your hand is guaranteed to beat them, then you should leave their hand as is. If your hand loses to a certain card, then of course you should take it. What about the grey areas in the middle?
Let’s take the following situation:
You are playing against Shardless BUG, Clique them during their draw step and their hand is the following:
They have 4 mana and you can’t counter anything. So here, the card to take would depend on your game plan. Are you trying to grind them out? If so, you should consider taking Ancestral Vision because they can set it up via Brainstorm and Shardless Agent. Are you planning on attacking and killing them in short order? Then, you should take Liliana of the Veil and give them the chance to Ancestral Vision. What if your hand has a Spell Pierce and you just need your Clique to survive one more turn? Then, you would probably not take anything and Pierce the Liliana or the Brainstorm (to prevent Decay). The card to take (or not take) depends a lot on your game plan in the matchup, as well as how your own hand lines up.
Let’s go to another hypothetical situation. Chime in your choices in the comments!
Click to enlarge.
Here are some final parting words on the resolution of Vendilion Clique. The targeting is announced upon resolution of the spell. Personally, I would make it very clear the spell is still on the stack by putting it behind my lands. Then, if my opponent has let it resolve, I will move it to the battlefield in front of my lands with my other creatures and announce a target for the trigger. Do note that if your opponent reveals his hand before you announce the target, you are allowed to look at their hand and still decide to target yourself. So, just make sure you are very clear where the Clique and the triggered ability are. For more detail on the subject, see Riki Hayashi’s article.