The weekend before GP Atlanta I went to a San Diego PTQ. If you asked me the best deck in the format—Extended—I would probably say Mono Red or Mythic. However, I chose to play Faeries. Why did I play with a deck isn’t the “best”? Because Fairies is much more interactive than either Mono Red or Mythic, it forces your opponent’s to make more decisions. At a tournament like a PTQ, where a lot of the players are not used to making so many decisions in a game, it can be extremely beneficial to force your opponent to make more decisions. Literally every card in my deck except Bitterblossom, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek can be played at instant speed, which makes playing against Fae a nightmare.
Here is the list I played:
(you can tell it’s a wrapter deck by the presence of four Jace Belerens)
The maindeck was given to me by Josh Utter-Leyton, and I feel like it is a good balance. It has three removal spells, which allow you to interact with aggro while not flooding with blanks against control or combo. It also has nine (counting Vendilion) selective discard spells that really allow you to create a plan effectively. With these selective discard spells, you can map out how to play each game and make sure that you have a plan that works. In fact, the only games you should be losing are ones where they draw extremely well after you see their hand which puts a wrench in the plan you originally created, or where you see their hand and simply can’t beat it no matter what you do (this mostly happens with Mono Red).
I made the sideboard extremely removal-heavy after scouting. As I walked around the tournament room, I saw a good amount of Mono Red and Jund. Removal also fit pretty effectively numbers-wise as the only cards I really wanted out against Control or Combo were the three removal spells: I had the extra two Jaces and the fourth Thoughtseize to bring in for those match-ups.
In round one I played a Faeries mirror against a friend. I actually enjoy the Faeries Mirror much more now. In this format, you can play more discard, making it less likely to be about who gets Bitterblossom first, and there are more manlands to make games in which one player has Bitterblossom and the other doesn’t at least semi-interesting.
In game one, neither of us had Blossom and it ended up being quite a game. I got some early damage in with Vendilion Clique, but once he answered it, the match simply came down to a manland war. I was ahead on life due to the Vendilion bashing, but he had more manlands and had Tar Pits while I was stuck on just Mutavaults. Eventually I set up a plan to convince him to attack with everything when I had Cryptic in hand. It worked to perfection and I took down game one.
This plan allows you to have a huge edge in manland wars by keeping in 4 Disfigures and 4 Peppersmokes.
Both Jace and Mistbind have some value in the matchup, but Jace is too clunky and Mistbind is very awkward when people are loading up on removal and cheap counters and have answers to Bitterblossom.
In game two, I got a turn two Blossom while he didn’t. However, as I said above, that no longer ensures victory. He began getting aggressive with two Mutavaults and quickly got me to 11 life. On the crucial turn, he sent a Mutavault and a Tar Pit at me, tapping out. I animated my Mutavault, blocked his, Disfigured his Tar Pit, and Peppersmoked his Mutavault. From there, the game and the match were mine.
My next few rounds weren’t all that memorable. I felt like I was playing tight and not running into Red, which is usually a recipe for success when you are playing with Faeries. As I said above, I would simply look at my opponent’s hand, make a plan, and watch it work. Soon, I was quickly sitting pretty at 4-0.
In round five, I faced my first Red opponent. I put up a bit of a fight game one, but still lost pretty handily.
This sideboard plan allows Faeries to take the controlling role. While Mistbind is normally powerful, cutting Bitterblossom makes it too much of a liability. Unfortunately, what I failed to realize with this plan is that winning the game is very difficult. I took control of the game at 4 life, but was unable to put pressure on my opponent because I didn’t draw one of the two Wurmcoils. My opponent cast an end-of-turn Volcanic Fallout, which suggested he had the second for the kill, but refused to play the second on his turn.
Then, we got into a stalemate in which both of us refused to play anything with me at 2 life. Eventually, he cast a Figure of Destiny, which I let resolve, since I would rather use a removal spell than a counterspell on it. When he went to level it end-of-turn (he only had three mana open), I responded with Vendilion Clique. He then cracked two fetches and played Volcanic Fallout for the kill. After the match, I asked him if he had the Fallout the whole time, to which he replied “yes.” It turned out he was playing around Mindbreak Trap.
Although it didn’t matter in this particular round, my opponent made a mistake in being obsessed with playing around a particular card. My opponent tried so hard to play around Mindbreak Trap, a card that very few Faeries list play and that is not good against Mono Red (so it was unlikely to be sideboarded in) that he ended up in a position where I could’ve beaten him with much more reasonable cards, such as a second Vendilion Clique (if I had the second Vendilion I could’ve played it in response to him fetching and gotten rid of the Fallout).
I think part of the reason my opponent made this play was nerves. He was nervous to be 4-0 and was nervous to play against someone he had heard of (he had read my articles). Just because a player is known doesn’t mean that he always has the perfect card in a situation. It is important to respect the play ability of opponents who you think are good, but not assume that their cards are perfect.
Next up was Wargate Omen. In game one, I put myself in a position to win, but ended up in an awkward situation. Early in the game, my opponent resolved a Prismatic Omen. As a result, I had to do everything in my power to prevent him from ramping. At the end of the game, my opponent was facing lethal with six lands and Valakut and Omen in play with me at 5 life. He had a bunch of outs, but the whole game came down to his top card: Valakut, Wargate, any fetch land, and Cultivate (he didn’t run Scapeshift or Primeval Titan) would all work off the top. He flipped—and hit a Valakut for the win.
In game two I had the nut draw: turn one Thoughtseize, turn two Bitterblossom, and turn three Jace Beleren. Jace gave me a stready stream of disruption while Bitterblossom applied pressure. Pretty quickly the game was mine.
Game three started off with an opposing Leyline of Sanctity. This prevented me from playing any discard, which gave him time to slip in a Prismatic Omen. I cast a turn two Bitterblossom which allowed me to put some pressure on. Later in the game, he found a Valakut and began dealing me damage with it. I then found a way to end-of-turn Cryptic the Leyline and take out all of the acceleration and counterspells he had been saving in his hand with the discard that had been stuck in my hand. On a critical turn, he drew a fetch land. Between his Valakut and my Bitterblossom, playing the land put me down to seven. On my turn, I swung with my fairy tokens and a Mutavault.
He was at nine health and I had four attacking faeries. He decided to crack the fetch, killing my Mutavault. Because he was at nine, this play did not change the clock. Instead, it left him with less outs for his next draw. If he had instead targeted me with the Valakut trigger, any land would have won him the game. Instead, we were in the same position as game one. His next draw came up…. Explore. The tension was killing me, and I was going to be slow-rolled longer. Next up…Wargate. He tutored for Valakut and immediately stuck out his hand saying “game”. I don’t think it was intentional, but this act was very rude. First of all, the game was not necessarily over, as if I had an answer to my Bitterblossom (Mistbind or Cryptic), I could have still survived at one health and killed him on the backswing. Second, regardless of the accuracy of the statement, it is not really appropriate to win (especially in such savage fashion) and immediately extend the hand and say “game”. Normally, the loser would extend the hand.
The tournament had 129 players, which is right over the cutoff for eight rounds, so I thought I might still have a shot for Top 8. I battled out the next two rounds and won them both for a final record of 6-2.
Unfortunately, I ended up in tenth place. However, the PTQ did provide some great news. My good friend and possibly the most deserving PTQer ever, Greg Hatch, took down the PTQ in flawless fashion with Mono Red. Hatch has moneyed six GPs in a row, and top 32ed five in a row, but has never made it to the Pro Tour… until now. Congrats Greg! Of course, for added value, Hatch beat “Mr. Handshake” in the semifinals to get revenge for me.
Overall, I think the Faeries deck was sweet, but that doesn’t mean that changes aren’t necessary. Here’s where I’m at now:
draw: -4 Spellstutter -4 Peppersmoke -4 Mana Leak +4 Warp +4 Wall +3 Wurmcoil +1 Thoughtseize
play: -4 Spelltuter -4 Peppersmoke -4 Vendilion Clique -1 Mana Leak +4 Warp +4 Wall +3 Wurmcoil +1 Tectonic Edge +1 Thoughtseize
Red: -4 Mistbind Clique -4 Bitterblossom -4 Thoughtseize +4 Warp +4 Wall +3 Wurmcoil +1 Tec Edge
Faeries: -4 Mistbind Clique +2 Agony Warp +1 Tectonic Edge +1 Thoughtseize
4cc/Combo: -4 Peppersmoke +1 Tectonic Edge +1 Thoughtseize +2 Jace Beleren
This build attempts to use Peppersmoke as its only removal spell main deck. This allows you to have no strict blanks against Control and Combo while giving you game against creature decks. The high discard count means that while Peppersmoke needs a buddy to take down a [card]Fauna Shaman[/card], you still have six hard answers to it.
The sideboard allows you to become a Blue Black control deck against Jund and Red by adding the 27th land to help cast Wurmcoil; adding Walls and Warps buys you time. The Edge also serves as a sideboard card against Control and Combo which, along with Thoughtseize and Beleren, allow you to take out the Peppersmokes.
I feel like Faeries is one of the best choices for the remaining PTQ season, and this build is a viable alternative to the builds coming out of GP Atlanta (though I did end up switching for that tournament). The six discard spells plus less dead removal will certainly help in a world where UG Omen and UW Control are more popular, as well as being great in the mirror.
Until next time, see their hand and make a plan.