Rogue Report – If You Can’t Beat Em…

 

You’ve been preparing for this tournament for weeks. Every maindeck and sideboard slot has been meticulously picked apart. You’ve got the hot tech for the mirror match, and nobody will expect your transformative sideboard. You’re mentally prepared. You’ve gotten enough sleep. You have water. Food. Dice. Deck. You’re ready for battle.

Look at his noob across the table from you. Doesn’t he know who you are? He just doesn’t get it. He might as well concede and save the time it takes to shuffle. You don’t even need to win the die roll. Decks are presented, cut, and hands are drawn. He keeps. Three lands, four spells, you’re good to go. “Keep,” you say. You’re already mentally writing the tournament report – PTQ report *1st place!*

Opponent plays his land, a Secluded Glen. Fairies; you’re fine with that, you tell yourself as you begin to breathe a little heavier.

In slow motion you see your opponent’s fingers untapping the Glen. “Reveal Bitterblossom,” he says. Sweat forms on your brow. Good, he might actually put up a fight you think, chuckling to yourself.

Secluded Glen taps and your hands begin to shake. Blue mana is seen entering the mana pool as your opponent reaches into his dice bag. He has it – the freaking noob has it. Ancestral Visions looms over the battlefield and suddenly the breakfast you ate seems like a bad idea.

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The Faerie Menace

The dreaded Secluded Glen, Bitterblossom, Ancestral Visions start plagued standard while it was legal, and now the Blue men have found their way into Extended. What’s great about Faeries? Their gameplan is so straightforward in the sense that it doesn’t really matter what spells your opponent is casting, your cards still stop them. Mistbind Clique still makes them lose a turn. Spellstutter Sprite still counters their spells, and in a way is more effective because the spells are generally cheaper anyway. The whole strategy of “play Bitterblossom then get free 1/1s while you continue to play Magic” still works.

Take a look at Jamie Acrhdekin’s PTQ winning deck out of Montreal Canada:

Just like Affinity, it’s a strategy that originated in standard (or even Block Constructed) that was powerful enough to cross over into extended. Faeries even has an advantage over Affinity in the sense that the sideboard hate for Faeries is much less useful in Extended. Volcanic Fallout isn’t very good against the rest of the format, and Faeries even has Umezawa’s Jitte to deal with any Great Sable Stags.

While both Affinity and Faeries are linear decks, Faeries is far less linear than the artifact deck. Just look at least year’s Blue deck featuring Spellstutter Sprite along with small wizard synergies. There wasn’t a Mistbind Clique in sight and the tribe still had the gas to rock the format.

That’s why when I look at this deck (no offense PTQ winner Jamie), it looks lazy. The cards from the standard Faerie deck were simply upgraded for Extended. Scion of Oona became Umezawa’s Jitte. Mana Leak and Spell Snare took over for Rune Snag or Broken Ambitions or whatever marginal counterspell was used at one time or another. Some of the cards have been upgraded, but the deck itself remains largely the same, powered by the large Jitte upgrade.

Clearly the deck works as-is. Faeries continues to see success in Extended with versions very much like this one. However, I can’t help but want so much more out of the deck. I have a hard time believing that the best application of Spellstutter Sprite is in a such a straightforward recreation of the standard deck. So what can be done?

All the Cool Kids are Doing It

One of the most obvious things to do to the current faerie deck is add the Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek combo to the deck. I’ve heard people talk about doing this to Faeries, but have yet to see a list. I guess that means making one myself.

The combo itself has a weird place in the deck. On one hand, it is really good at stopping you from killing yourself with a Bitterblossom. Heck, you could run out the double Bitterblossom much more often if you know that you’ll get even one turn with the combo (not to mention Jitte). There are also minor synergies like discarding Sword of the Meek to Thirst for Knowledge, then getting it back off of a 1/1 Faerie. Also, the Faerie deck is naturally disruptive, which makes the opponent’s plan of attack on your combo harder to execute. Since Faeries can be aggressive, even a Thopter Foundry by itself can sacrifice some Moxes and maybe add enough aggression to finish somebody off or win a race. Faeries can use random 1/1s more than DDepths can. Finally, the combo is a way for Faeries to beat aggressive decks, an area the deck has struggled in the past.

The awkward part is that the combo just makes a bunch of 1/1s. Well, it gains life, but the aggressive part of the combo is in a bunch of 1/1s, much like the rest of faeries. Since the combo is just doing more of what the deck does anyway, just more efficiently, the deck gets trumped by something like Night of Soul’s Betrayal.

One of the reason DDepths/Foundry works so well is that each of the deck’s plans are hard to attack simultaneously. Damping Matrix has been picking up popularity, and that’s a card that Faeries doesn’t care nearly as much about. Since the deck still plays good creatures it can always win the old fashioned way, making it hard to hate out with narrow cards. Umezawa’s Jitte and a creature is almost like this deck’s second combo.

Here’s my attempted at Cool Kids Faeries:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know why current Faeries decks aren’t playing a Chrome Mox, Thirst for Knowledge, and Dark Confidant engine over Ancestral Visions. With Chrome Mox the deck suddenly has two very exciting first turn options – Bitterblossom and Dark Confidant. Confidant and [card]Bitterblossom[/card] are very similar in a way, each netting you free cards at the start of each of your turns for a marginal life sacrifice. A deck that has capitalized on Bitterblossom for years can naturally accept Dark Confidant into its strategy.

Another way to go with this deck is to start to look more like Tezzeret with the planeswalker himself and some Trinket Mages. That gives the deck interesting options like Pithing Needle to stop opposing Thopter-Sword combo, allowing you to win just off of a Bitterblossom.

One idea was to add a little White and play some Steelshaper’s Gifts, but I wanted to start with the simplest version. Speaking of adding White”¦

Faeries a la Esper

The next place I looked to try to ‘next level’ Faeries was adding another color. White struck me as the best option after seeing an Esper Mystical Teachings deck in action. The manabase was superb. Sac lands found Watery Grave/Hallowed Fountain which turned on Glacial Fortress and Drowned Catacomb. I was hesitant to add a color to the Faeries manabase because of how painful I thought it would be, but this manabase works very well with very little pain.

Path to Exile was also a reason to play White. I hate that the deck plays Doom Blade in Extended, and simply by adding Path to Exile the deck immediately gains percentage points against Dark Depths. There are also interesting new sideboard options with white, like Rest for the Weary, my new favorite anti-red card. Not to mention Circle of Protection: Red. Heck, you could even go as far as Kitchen Finks if you wanted to.

The other card I wanted to try was, wait for it,Momentary Blink. Who doesn’t want to Momentary Blink a Mistbind Clique? Spellstutter Sprite? Even Vendilion Clique with Blink is fun.

I also wanted this deck to have more outs to Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek now that it had legitimate answers to a 20/20. The deck has natural advantages in cheap cards like Spellstutter Sprite and Spell Snare, but if DDepths wants a Thopter Foundry to resolve they can usually do it. I decided to take another page out of the Mystical Teachings decks and play the namesake card along with an Extirpate. Suddenly the deck has answers.

Here’s my most recent version:

As you can see I went with the Chrome Mox, Dark Confidant, Thirst for Knowledge engine again. The deck is a little lacking in artifacts, but there are things like Spell Snare or extra Bitterblossoms that aren’t very painful to discard. Even Momentary Blink and Mystical Teachings provide marginal advantages when discarded. Still, more artifacts would be nice.

There isn’t a lot of White in this deck, as you’ll notice, but white does add nice sideboard cards. Also, Path to Exile is a huge upgrade over Doom Blade and might be worth playing White just by itself. Esper Charm is another card I wanted to play, but ultimately just couldn’t find the room.

The struggle with this deck is trying to find the right balance between Faeries and Mystical Teachings control. I like being able to sideboard into more of a control deck against aggro, but being able to keep the faeries tempo and disruption plan active against combo and control. I believe that faeries can be much more flexible than it is currently.

Conclusion

I like where each of these versions of Faeries is going. Each one is adding more ways to deal with DDepths/Foundry while simultaneously trying to help the aggro matchups. Hopefully we can agree that the current faeries decks out there aren’t optimal, yet they continue to succeed. That tells me that if somebody put the time into faeries to take it to the next level, the payoffs would be great. All it takes is a little creativity and elbow grease.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on Twitter
Zygonn on Magic Online

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