The Twitter votes came in this week, and you the people selected Faeries.
My first thought was: “Cool, I bet playing Faeries isn’t so different from something like Jeskai. You get ahead, you turn the corner, and finish them off.”
Faeries in Modern is much different than when I first watched Magic coverage of Pro Tour Hollywood in 2008. Those Faeries decks looked completely unbelievable to me. They had Cryptic Command and Mistbind Clique to put your opponent in the squeeze, Thoughtseize and Vendilion Clique to control your opponent’s hand, and Bitterblossom and Ancestral Vision to round out the truly absurd cards.
Well, when you think Modern Faeries, it turns out that the shell is almost exactly what the deck looks like. You take all the greatest hits from Standard, toss them into Modern, and you have a really solid shell to start with. Here’s the deck I ended up playing with this week:
Faeries drops some of its tribal component in the move to Modern, losing Scion of Oonas and some Mistbind Cliques, because it turns out that other decks are doing powerful things, and 4-mana spells are pricey! Some decks make turn-3 Primeval Titans or 12/12 double-striking, trampling Death Shadows, and trying to play a Scion might just get you killed. But when you’re paired up with the hand disruption and counterspell suite this deck has, you can still get away with some of that, and Mistbind Clique is really sweet. You can set up some pretty absurd scenarios beyond just tapping your opponent’s lands that involve you bouncing it with Cryptic Command and freeing the championed creature to then tap all their mana again. Mistbind Clique is really great, and if I were to play more Faeries I’d want to see if you could go to 3 or even the full 4 copies.
The big changes come from what the last 9 years of Magic have brought to the archetype. From the plane of Innistrad, we gained Liliana of the Veil, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Snapcaster Mage. These spells really allow the deck to take a full controlling role. I don’t think Snapcaster needs any more praise, but I’ll certainly heap it on Liliana, the Last Hope. Being able to buy back your utility blue creatures is a great power, but with the rise of Elves and Kiki-Chord on MTGO, these cards are even better. She’ll blow up all of the opposing mana Elves, she’s a card advantage engine, and a win condition! Liliana, the Last Hope was everything I want out of a planeswalker in Standard, and is everything I want now in Modern. She has her weaknesses and her bad matchups, sure, but the power to re-buy a “counterspell” in the form of Spellstutter Sprite, Snapcaster Mage, or a Clique is just terrifying to play against.
Every time I look at a Modern midrange deck list, the first thing I want to do is add a copy of Dismember. This card answers Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Gurmag Angler, Reality Smasher, and Restoration Angel for 1 mana! I didn’t see many Dismembers when I researched other Faeries decks leading up to playing the games this week, but it’s a card I want at least 1 copy of in my main deck. The life cost does add up when you include Thoughtseize and Bitterblossom, but because this deck has access to large quantities of black mana and is holding up the mana until end step most turns, you can wait and gauge how much life it will cost you.
The thing that really makes the deck function is the disruption package. Just like its Standard hayday, once you reach 4+ open mana, every turn is a puzzle for your opponent. They need to deduce how to play around Cryptic and Clique, all the while making sure not to get destroyed by Snapcaster plus Push or double Spellstutter Sprite. Something I’ll want to do in the future is to make sure to have more haymaker cards that you can get your opponent with after they use their turn deploying spells and you deploy your answers to them. Liliana, the Last Hope currently fills that role, but she can be pretty weak with only 11 creatures in the main deck. She’s much better on turns 7+ once some creatures have hit the bin, but less potent on say turn 3 unless you’re against one of the mana acceleration green decks. It may not seem like it from the pilot’s perspective, but the turns are exceptionally difficult for your opponent to navigate, and each turn can become a difficult puzzle of trying to figure out what the Faeries player has in hand. This is what sold me on Faeries in Modern.
The sideboard here needs work. Dredge, while not popular right now, is a horrible matchup, and still something you see from time to time, especially when they get cards like Driven // Despair for their sideboard. 2 Nihil Spellbombs don’t cut it for interaction there—I’d want something like Anger of the Gods if I were red, but since I’m not, it’s possible that I want to consider more Spellbombs, some Leylines, or even Surgicals. But because the deck doesn’t play Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, or Thought Scour (it could, however, play Opt, but I’m not sure how many cantrips the deck can afford after Ancestral Vision), it’s difficult to play Surgical. This leads me to believe that if you want graveyard hate, Leyline is your next best option after the Spellbombs, and the Spellbombs play pretty well into the whole flash plan.
There’s a large amount of the sideboard dedicated to Tron as well. Tron is another really tough matchup as you don’t have a way to fight their mana base. I had 4 Spreading Seas for a few matches and realized that was not a winning strategy, especially against Eldrazi Tron. In the end, I think it’s better to have a few extra counterspells that can cover your bases against their early plays (Ceremonious Rejection), as long as those spells can double up for sideboard cards in other matchups (like Affinity and Lantern!).
I’ll be showing some matches later this week! I’d love to see what you think. The games with this deck go particularly long, and there’s a ton of back and forth, so I’m excited to see what I face. Next week will be my last piece of Modern content for a short while as I get back into Standard before the World Championships and PT Ixalan!