Every time Wizards bans a card, unbans a card, or prints a new card, I get a ton of messages asking, “Is Faeries great now?” My answer is always “no”—I never felt like you had enough to do with blue-black to justify playing Faeries over a deck like Jeskai. Now, with Fatal Push, things may have finally changed.
Fatal Push gives the deck the 1-mana premium removal it sorely needed. Before, you had to rely on cards like Disfigure, Dismember, Murderous Cut, and those cards are either bad or hard to play in multiples. With Push, you can play a clean 2-color deck with a good mana base and great Snapcaster targets.
Faeries is an aggro-control deck that changes the role it plays a lot depending on what you’re playing against and what its draw is. You have the tools to play a control deck with Ancestral Vision, removal, and counterspells, but you do not have inevitability—in part because your most important card kills you—so you have to understand that at some point you must turn the corner and start attacking.
Against a deck that doesn’t have a lot of board presence such as a combo or control deck, your main goal is to stick a threat and ride it to victory. Bitterblossom is the best at that, but Vendilion Clique also works, and even a combination of Snapcasters/Mutavaults/Spellstutters will do. You play a lot at instant speed, so once you have something in play you never have to tap out and can react to whatever they do.
Against a deck with board presence, you usually start more controlling, and then you race. The deck has many tools that enable racing, particularly Cryptic Command, but also Mistbind Cliques, Mutavaults, and Tar Pits. Often with a deck like Faeries, you start on the back foot and then when you reach the midgame, you have the mentality that you just have to stay alive—you look for ways to survive, but not for ways to win. With Faeries specifically, however, this is not the right approach—you must look for ways to win. I cannot stress this enough. You are not a full-blown control deck and you must race people, so keep that in your mind at all times.
4 Ancestral Vision, 0 Serum Visions
Ancestral Visions is excellent in this deck. It’s sort of a threat for the stick-a-threat-and-then-never-tap-out” plan, and it goes very well with your counterspells and cheap removal, as well as with Collective Brutality.
Serum Visions, on the other hand, is a card I don’t like much. There’s just never any time to play it. On turn 1, you already have 9 spells you want to play, as well as lands that come into play tapped. On turn 2 you have a billion things to do, and turn 4 is also important. The only real room you have is on turn 3.
Faeries thrives on keeping open mana. Even if you don’t have anything, as long as you can represent it, your opponent will be cautious with their plays. If you tap a land for Serum Visions in the middle of the game, then you’re diminishing the universe of things your opponent has to play around, and this is a real cost, even if you weren’t going to use the mana for anything, and with 7 creaturelands in the deck, it’s likely you will.
Of course, the same arguments also work for Ancestral Vision, but the first 4 copies of this effect are much easier to accommodate (since then you can play them turn 1). On top of that, Ancestral Vision is very good, so it’s worth the hassle. Serum Visions is just a cantrip, so it’s not worth it.
2 Go for the Throat
Originally I had Smother, but savvy viewers from my video pointed out that I was lacking ways to kill big creatures, and I agreed. I think Go for the Throat is the best option right now with the stock of Infect’s Inkmoth Nexus at an all-time low (plus you being a deck full of flyers). It’s only really bad versus Affinity. The ability to kill both Reality Smasher and Tasigur, the Golden Fang is what pushes Go for the Throat to the top.
2 Snapcaster Mage
Originally I had 3, but I felt that often I’d have nothing to return. It’s still a powerful card, especially with Fatal Push (and the deck does get to 6 mana quite often, for Snapcaster plus Cryptic turns), and adds yet another thing they have to play around at 4 mana (Snapcaster plus Mana Leak). For this reason, I like playing 2. If you play Serum Visions, then you can probably afford to play 3.
Snapcaster is also a card that gets significantly better post-board, as you ensure you’re going to have more copies of great cards to flashback—removal for creatures, and discard and counterspells for other decks. If you’re looking for a flexible slot, I would not be opposed to playing a Snapcaster Mage in the sideboard since you can board it against almost literally everything and it’ll improve your deck.
Pendelhaven is very good in Faeries, and if it added colorless mana, people would play it more often. The green mana throws people off by making them think it’s a green card. In this deck, it lets you win flying token fights against Lingering Souls, which is important.
0 Smuggler’s Copter
People keep suggesting that I play Smuggler’s Copter, but I don’t like the idea of it very much. The main reason is that I want to stick a threat and then sit back in a lot of matchups, but Smuggler’s Copter doesn’t let me do that. If I stick a Smuggler’s Copter, I still have to play something else to be able to start attacking. It’s good with Bitterblossom, but so is the rest of your deck, and I don’t think you need to maximize your draws when you draw it at the expense of making them worse when you don’t. Every sorcery-speed card you play has a cost in this deck, and I don’t think you should pay the cost for Smuggler’s Copter.
0 Swords of any kind
Swords aren’t bad, but I think there’s too much instant-speed cheap removal in this format for you to play them. Sword of Feast and Famine in particular is very punishing if you get it wrong, as you tap out in the hopes of untapping all your lands and then a Bolt/Path/Push can ruin your day. I don’t think they are awful, but I prefer maindecking 0.
I think there are two ways you can go about sideboarding. The first is to have generic answers that you bring in against multiple decks—Thoughtseize, Negate, Smother, and Damnation. The second is to have targeted hate—Rain of Tears, Surgical Extraction, and Hurkyl’s Recall.
I personally prefer the first approach, with the exception of Dredge. If you do not have direct Dredge hate, you’re just going to lose to it. You don’t need cards like Rain of Tears or Fulminator Mage because Thoughtseize, Negate, and Countersquall are already good against those decks, but you do need Dredge hate, so you either play that or forfeit the match.
There are way too many decks in Modern to have a sideboard guide against everything, but here’s a general idea of what to sideboard:
For control and combo decks. As a general rule, if you have a useless card, you can bring in Thoughtseize in its place.
Fights burn and combo decks that rely on instants/sorceries (such as Ad Nauseam). You can also bring it in versus control if you have too many cards to take out.
Countersquall and Negate
For control and combo decks. I think Countersquall is a better card, since the damage really adds up, but it’s hard to cast two in a turn, so I hedge a bit with a Negate.
Versus Affinity, Eldrazi, and random creature decks like Elves.
For Death’s Shadow and other small creature decks (Zoo, Merfolk, and so on).
Exclusively for Dredge.
Liliana, the Last Hope
Against decks with 1-toughness creatures, such as Affinity or Company decks.
What to Take Out
Against control and combo decks: Fatal Push and Go for the Throat. Pretty straightforward here. If you’re playing against a deck where you want Go for the Throat, then you can take out Mistbind Cliques. In general, if they have a ton of removal, Mistbind Clique is not so good.
Against aggro decks: A bit trickier, since aggro decks are more diversified. If they don’t have too many 2s then you can take out Spell Snare (such as against Death’s Shadow). If they don’t have many 2-toughness creatures, then you can take out Collective Brutality. If they have a ton of cheap removal, trim Mistbind Cliques. You can almost always take out 1 Cryptic Command, and you should often take out Mana Leak on the draw (but keep it on the play against most decks). As a whole you have fewer cards to take out against aggro than against control, so it’s not good to just fill your sideboard with spot removal.
Tips and Tricks
- Bitterblossom is not as good as it was when it was on Standard, so don’t keep bad hands just because they have Bitterblossom. In Standard, you could afford to keep something like 6 lands and Bitterblossom on the play since it was so much better than all the other cards you could have, but Modern is too powerful for that and you can’t keep a hand like this.
- You can use Cryptic Command to bounce your own creatures. It doesn’t come up often, but can be relevant with Cliques, Spellstutter, and Snapcaster. You can also execute the even rarer play of killing your own Mistbind Clique to get another Vendilion or Spellstutter trigger.
- Mistbind Clique can always trigger Fatal Push—either you champion a Faerie, or if you’re really desperate you can just play it to die.
- If you have 2 Bitterblossoms out, your life is your most precious resource, and it’s almost always correct to chump block to preserve it. If your opponent has a 2/2 and you play a second Blossom, you should likely just chump it with a token. You do this because 2 life in this case is actually worth a whole turn, and running out of life before you can close the game is the most likely way for you to lose. If you have only 1 Bitterblossom, then you usually take the damage and try to either race or double-block the following turn.
- If you have 2 Mistbind Cliques and 8 mana, you can play one and then play the second and champion the first.
- Your flash creatures really can be played at any time. Mistbind on upkeep and Vendilion Clique on draw step are “standard,” but don’t get too narrow minded on this, because the best time to play them really changes from game to game. Attack step Mistbind is quite common, as are end-of-turn Mistbind and Vendilion, or Mistbind in response to a removal spell, or after blocks. Vendilion can also be used in response to a spell, like a Ritual.
- Spellstutter counts on resolution as well, so be careful with cheap removal spells that can leave you short on Faeries.
- In all likelihood, you should activate your creaturelands more than you think.
In the end, I think Faeries is a viable deck right now. Is it the best deck in Modern? Probably not (that would probably be Death’s Shadow), but it has the tools to compete and it can win a tournament if it’s well positioned. I think this deck is particularly bad against Dredge and Eldrazi, so if your metagame has a lot of those decks I would avoid it, but I think you have a good chance against everything else. If your metagame has a lot of control decks or certain combo decks like Storm, then Faeries is very good.