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HAUMPH’s Deck of the Week – U/B Faeries

The crowd has spoken once again, and the chosen deck for this week is U/B Faeries. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as I’m fairly certain everybody wanted to see if Faeries is viable in Modern. My first reactions to the recent unbanning of [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd] were that Faeries would be overhyped and Zoo would be the far superior Modern deck. It didn’t take too long for others to also figure this out, and it is a bit unfortunate that the unbanning of Bitterblossom came hand-in-hand with the unbanning of Wild Nacatl. Faeries would be much better positioned without hyper aggressive decks such as Zoo running around. It tends to feast on the more midrange, fair decks that may no longer exist with the banning of [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd].

Faeries is an aggro-control deck that utilizes its synergies with Bitterblossom and flash Faeries (such as [ccProd]Spellstutter Sprite[/ccProd], [ccProd]Scion of Oona[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Mistbind Clique[/ccProd]) to slowly gain control of the board and win the game. They accomplish this with a combination of hand disruption, counters, removal, and the aforementioned Faeries with flash. Almost all of the spells are meant to be cast on the opponent’s turn, as that gives the Faeries player a plethora of options when opponents cast their spells. Playing against a Faeries opponent can be very tricky as it is nearly impossible to play around all the possible instant speed interactions.

There’s a nostalgia factor, as Faeries was perhaps one of the most dominant Standard decks of all time. “Turn 1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd], turn 2 [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd]” was one of the most common “bad beat” stories when a person was asked how they lost. Unfortunately, that was Standard, and Modern is a completely different beast. The format is significantly faster, the creatures are bigger, and the spells are much stronger. Despite all of this, Faeries is the “deck of the week” as people (myself included) are very curious to see if the deck that dominated Standard for 2 years is playable in Modern.

After going through several lists that went 3-1 or better in recent Modern Daily Events, I decided to start with a more controlling shell of Faeries:

[ccdeck]4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
3 River of Tears
4 Secluded Glen
1 Sunken Ruins
2 Island
1 Swamp
4 Mutavault
2 Tectonic Edge
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Thoughtseize
1 Peppersmoke
3 Spell Snare
1 Agony Warp
2 Doom Blade
2 Smother
3 Mana Leak
4 Bitterblossom
4 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
4 Cryptic Command
2 Mistbind Clique
—–Sideboard—–
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Spellskite
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Batterskull
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Deathmark
2 Jace Beleren
1 Negate
1 Vendilion Clique[/ccdeck]

As you can see, this deck lacks Scion of Oonas and only has 2 copies of Mistbind Clique. My first take on the deck was to just build a U/B Bitterblossom control deck with just a few of the staple Faeries and add [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd]s to the deck. With the banning of Deathrite, Snapcaster is as strong as ever, and I really wanted to see if Bitterblossom was good enough to win on its own…

If any of you watched the Monday stream of this deck, it was not very pretty. We got thoroughly stomped by just about any tier 1, 2, or 3 deck we played against. There were games where we in fact got the “god draw” of turn 1 Thoughtseize, turn 2 Bitterblossom, but still lost—the tokens just didn’t put enough pressure on the opponent to win the game. Other matchups such as Affinity and Zoo are sometimes so fast that producing just a singular 1/1 flier each turn just was not relevant in stopping their game plan.

After continuing to tinker with the deck, I finally came across a list that won a Modern Premier Event and we actually started to win some matches! I updated the list a bit, but 99% of it was derived from “Osmanozguney” and his Modern Premier #6737458 winning list on 2/16/2014.

[ccdeck]4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
1 Sunken Ruins
3 Island
4 Mutavault
4 River of Tears
4 Secluded Glen
2 Tectonic Edge
4 Mistbind Clique
4 Scion of Oona
4 Spellstutter Sprite
1 Go for the Throat
4 Bitterblossom
4 Cryptic Command
2 Doom Blade
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Mana Leak
1 Smother
3 Spell Snare
2 Thoughtseize
1 Batterskull
—–Sideboard—–
3 Deathmark
3 Engineered Explosives
2 Jace Beleren
2 Sower of Temptation
1 Thoughtseize
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Negate
1 Batterskull[/ccdeck]

This is definitely the deck more people think of in terms of the traditional Faeries deck. After switching to this version of the deck, I started winning roughly half my matches. The addition of Scion of Oona and the full 4 Mistbind Cliques makes the deck much more aggressive and it was a lot easier to close out opponents. Bitterblossom by itself is just way too slow, and getting support from the Scions and Mistbinds were a huge help. It still had the same problems in that it folded to hyper-aggressive decks and even something like a resolved [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd] was a big problem. Here is a quick rundown on how I would sideboard against some of the major decks in the fields:

Zoo

In: 3 [ccProd]Deathmark[/ccProd], 3 [ccProd]Engineered Explosives[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Sower of Temptation[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd]

Out: 2 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd], 3 [ccProd]Mana Leak[/ccProd], 4 [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd]

This is likely one of the worst matchups for Faeries. It’s possible that some number of Bitterblossoms need to be boarded out but I’m trying out the strategy of Bitterblossoms, Scions, Mistbinds, and Sower of Temptations to try to fly over while controlling the ground critters with the cheap efficient removal. [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mana Leak[/ccProd], and a [ccProd]Tectonic Edge[/ccProd] can likely be cut and outside of that, some combination of [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd] and possibly a Bitterblossom or two can go (perhaps keep Blossoms on the play and board some out on the draw).

[ccProd]Spellstutter Sprite[/ccProd] is an excellent almost-hard counter against them, but Mana Leak is less good. The matchup does get much better post-sideboard as you morph into a U/B control deck with 2 Batterskulls as the finishers. The reason why I am keeping the Scions is also to make it so that they need multiple removal spells if they want to kill a Sower of Temptation with Scion in play. Having additional ways to deal with [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd] seems great, and if unchecked, can win you the game in a hurry.

Scapeshift (Cryptic Version)

In: 2 [ccProd]Jace Beleren[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Negate[/ccProd]

Out: 2 [ccProd]Doom Blade[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Smother[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Go for the Throat[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Scion of Oona[/ccProd]

The removal spells are pretty terrible unless they are packing [ccProd]Primeval Titan[/ccProd]s or possibly [ccProd]Vexing Shusher[/ccProd] out of the sideboard (which is only common in the R/G non-Cryptic Command version). Scion of Oona is the last cut here as it’s simply the worst card left out of the remaining options. This should theoretically be one of your better options as the combination of hand disruption, counters, and a clock should put you over the top against them. If you are playing against the R/G version then keep in the [ccProd]Doom Blade[/ccProd]s and possibly even [ccProd]Go for the Throat[/ccProd], and take out all of the [ccProd]Scion of Oona[/ccProd]s.

Affinity

In: 3 [ccProd]Engineered Explosives[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Sower of Temptation[/ccProd]

Out: [ccProd]Go for the Throat[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Mana Leak[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd]

This matchup actually isn’t terrible as [ccProd]Spell Snare[/ccProd] is an absolute house against them. Once again, Mana Leak isn’t at its best here but everything else is pretty strong. Even a turn 2 Bitterblossom on the play can be good as it blocks their [ccProd]Signal Pest[/ccProd]s, [ccProd]Vault Skirge[/ccProd]s, and [ccProd]Blinkmoth Nexus[/ccProd]es.

Also, while [ccProd]Etched Champion[/ccProd] is generally a trump against most decks, the 4 [ccProd]Mutavault[/ccProd]s do a great job of stopping the Champion in its tracks. Just be mindful that they could possibly bring in [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd]s in the matchup. For that reason alone, I might consider changing up the mana base a bit and add a few more basics. The deck already pushes its mana with 6 colorless lands and Cryptic Command.

I’m not entirely sure that the 2nd Batterskull here is necessary, as Affinity usually kills with a giant flier. I tend to like Thoughtseize in the matchup as there are only a couple of cards that are actually relevant, and if you manage to strip the Cranial Plating or Steel Overseer out of their hand, they end up with an army of do-nothing 1/1s on the board. It is a fairly poor draw outside of the first two turns however, and I can see just bringing in the Batterskull over the Thoughtseize.

Tron

In: 2 [ccProd]Jace Beleren[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Negate[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]

Out: 2 [ccProd]Doom Blade[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Go for the Throat[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Smother[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Scion of Oona[/ccProd]

Similar sideboard strategy against most of the non-creature based control or combo decks. Not having any answers to a [ccProd]Wurmcoil Engine[/ccProd] might be a bit greedy, but the idea is that Wurmcoil Engine should not resolve. This matchup seems good but is actually quite bad since you have almost no way to put enough pressure on them before they hit Tron. Chain Mistbind Cliques and hope they go all the way. Perhaps some number of [ccProd]Spreading Seas[/ccProd] in the sideboard could do the trick.

Mono-Red

Not a real deck outside of MTGO, and also we can’t possibly win sooo moving on.

(Draw [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd])

Birthing Pod

In: 3 [ccProd]Deathmark[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Sower of Temptation[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd]

Out: 3 [ccProd]Spell Snare[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Inquisition of Kozilek[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd]

This may be a bit aggressive on the removal, but the idea is that you want as many ways to kill their one-mana ramp creatures as possible. Deathmark also does a good job of killing most of the creatures in the deck, including [ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd], [ccProd]Voice of Resurgence[/ccProd], [ccProd]Melira[/ccProd], etc. Pod has lots of difficulty when its mana creatures get wiped.

While Spell Snare is good against Voice of Resurgence, the Birthing Pod deck has almost no other 2-drops in their deck and I tend to favor not playing them. I also take out Inquisitions as you can Deathmark almost all of the creatures that can get Inquisitioned but more consistently removes the threats.

[ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] is significantly better as it can also get the [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd] out of their hand. This matchup is actually fairly favorable unless a Birthing Pod is actually on the battlefield. Then it is incredibly difficult to win as they just have too many value creatures in the Pod chain. Batterskull might still be fine after sideboard as the matchup does tend to get grindy.

Sideboarding can also change based on whether or not you are playing or drawing. Additional hand disruption might be better on the draw as you cannot Mana Leak their turn 2 play while going second, so a way to disrupt them before they cast a Kitchen Finks or Voice of Resurgence may be necessary.

Splinter Twin

In: 1 [ccProd]Negate[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Jace Beleren[/ccProd]

Out: 1 [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd], 4 [ccProd]Scion of Oona[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Mistbind Clique[/ccProd]

There are many flavors of Splinter Twin, but they all essentially try to do the same thing. [ccProd]Pestermite[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Deceiver Exarch[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd] and win the game. We use a fairly straightforward sideboard plan here, as you want as many ways to interact with them as you can get, while also trying to gain some card advantage off of Jace. Be wary of just running out a turn 3 Jace on the draw as they can just combo off. He’s still probably worth playing as you can set up a turn where you drop him after resolving a hand disruption spell to see if the coast is clear.

U/W/R

In: 2 [ccProd]Jace Beleren[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Negate[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd]

Out: 4 [ccProd]Scion of Oona[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Mistbind Clique[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Smother[/ccProd]

I feel UWR control or midrange is positioned fairly well right now as the core of [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], [ccProd]Lightning Helix[/ccProd], [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd] seem excellent in a field full of 3/3 and 2/3 monsters. That being said, this is probably one of the better matchups for Faeries as it is a relatively fair deck. All your cards are fairly strong against them and as long as you are mindful not to get burned out, you should be favored here. Most UWR lists are shaving Electrolyzes as well, since they do nothing against the Zoo decks which only help the matchup for Faeries.

[ccProd]Doom Blade[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Go For the Throat[/ccProd] are both reasonable as it kills [ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Celestial Colonnade[/ccProd]s, but going down to 2 and keeping a Mistbind Clique is fine. [ccProd]Batterskull[/ccProd]s are actually fairly strong here as the matchup tends to be very grindy and having an unkillable threat in Batterskull is pretty awesome.

After playing a few days with the deck, it seems like Faeries is just not positioned well in the current Modern metagame. It tries too hard to focus on winning with [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd], when the card itself just isn’t good right now. There are still games where you can start off with a turn 2 Bitterblossom with Spellstutters and Mistbind Cliques to lock the opponent out, but there are also a ton of hands where you don’t draw Bitterblossom, and hands look absolutely horrendous without them.

Too many times, my first 7 looked like this: Mistbind Clique, 4 lands, Mana Leak, Spellstutter Sprite. Spellstutter Sprite is fairly weak without Bitterblossom and there were times where Mistbind Clique had nothing to champion. The deck also suffers from a lack of deck manipulation and for a fairly controlling deck, almost no spell gives you value other than the 4 copies of Cryptic Command (which also feel like the best card in the deck). This means that you’re usually just left to the mercy of your topdecks.

Being the competitive player that I am, it was tough swallowing all the losses that I was piling on while piloting the deck. Some of that was probably due to me not playing my best, but it also just felt incredibly underpowered compared to some of the other Modern decks in the format. There seems to be a very small margin for error when playing the deck, whereas other decks are much more forgiving. This article will probably be up after the results of Pro Tour: Born of the Gods, but I would be very surprised to see a copy of Faeries near the Top 8.

All of this negativity probably makes me seem ungrateful for the chosen deck, but I’m actually glad that we at least got to explore the viability of Faeries in Modern. I’ve always been a firm believer that you learn a lot more from losing than from winning, and struggling with the deck really made me think long and hard about all the possible directions I could go to improve the deck. I would like to thank all the people who voted for the Deck of the Week and remember to keep an eye out as I will be regularly updating the list of decks to choose from via Twitter. Looking forward to sharing another deck with you guys next week!

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