Mind-Boggling Technology – Making Lax Plays

I tried the method of posting a question on Facebook and commenting on the responses, but put a new twist on it this week. Here is the question of the week.

Kyle Boggemes

What is the biggest mistake you made in the last tournament you played?

Craig Douglas Wescoe: Preordained land and Sea Gate Oracle to the top of my deck, knowing my opponent (Ari Lax) was boros, and for some reason put the land above the Sea Gate Oracle so that when he played turn 1 Goblin Guide and attacked, I revealed Oracle instead of land. He even called it, which made it that much more embarrassing.

I’m picking on Craig because he is a level 6 pro, and because he has something in common with most players: we all are guilty of playing too fast. All he had to do in this situation was take an extra three seconds to rearrange the top of his deck and would have gained a tremendous advantage. There were about 15 other comments where people mentioned a story about playing too fast and losing because of it. There are so many plays we make each game, but the slightest mistake seems to lose games.

I played in a Grand Prix Trial last Sunday at RIW Hobbies and watched Ari Lax completely throw away a game by tapping a single incorrect mana. His opponent –Holly Liggett- was playing Kithkin and attacked Ari with a 3/3 Goldmeadow Stalwart. The rest of her board was a Wizened Cenn, two Windbrisk Heights, and three Plains. Ari had Sunken Ruins, Swamp, three Islands, and two Mutavaults in play, as well as two Cryptic Commands in hand. He tapped an Island and a Sunken Ruins to animate two Mutavaults and double block the 3/3 Goldmeadow Stalwart. Second main phase, Holly casts a Spectral Procession and Ari went to counter it with Cryptic Command and draw a card, but only had access to two blue mana. He was then forced to tap Holly’s creatures with Cryptic Commands for the next two turns and eventually lost the game. If Ari tapped any land other than Sunken Ruins, he would have won the game by a mile. It ended up not mattering because he still won the match, and we had a good laugh about it, but it could have knocked him out of the tournament.

Like Craig, Ari happens to be a player you have probably heard of, which means you are guilty of what I’m talking about as well. There have been articles dedicated to this subject before which is why I have chosen to include content on Extended as well. No matter how many articles are written about avoiding loose plays, it can be tough to remember all the advice until after the fact.

It seems like I forget this rule as well if I don’t take the time to relearn it every month or so. There are many simple rules in Magic that take so little time to forget. This game is so interesting because we forget the most basic things at times. There aren’t any players who are above making the occasional mistake due to not thinking long enough, so you should always take time to tell yourself to slow down. One of the reasons I chose to play Scapeshift at PT Amsterdam is because I could spend more time on each turn than if I played a control deck.

Knowing too Much

I think the reason we make so many mistakes like this is because the game becomes too familiar. Most of my tournament success comes from unexplored formats. My knowledge of the format is inversely related to the amount of time I spend on a given match. When the format is new, I am forced to take more time considering each play because the basic interactions are not ingrained in my head. Once I have played a particular format enough times, I play each game faster and make less outside of the box plays as a result. There is almost always a better play than the first one that pops into my head and I fail to see them as often when there is an automatic play that can be made.

It’s even more dangerous when you think you know the format and play fast as a result, but the reality is that it’s different than you expected. The fact that this can happen means we should never take the automatic play and be satisfied because there are so many options for each turn.

This section of the article is helpful for me to write because I always forget this because I play so much Magic. Your brain does not want to think so it comes up with shortcuts, so it’s up to us to make the right plays. This does not mean you should think five minutes on every play because we don’t have an hour for each game. All I mean is that you should simply take a few extra seconds to double check that your play is correct.

I also wanted to write about my findings in the Extended format because it changes so much each week. The dominant deck continues to be Faeries, as expected, because people are still convinced their bad decks win against it. The Magic Online PTQ that took place last week was won by the Fae even though literally every article in the world said it was the deck to beat.

I played Faeries in two Grand Prix Trials at Get Your Game On and RIW Hobbies last weekend. The first one went poorly as I played against two decks with Great Sable Stags. I drew too many lands against Doran and the Stags were not really a problem because Wall of Tanglecord happens to be the best card against them anyway.

The second match was against Brian Chung playing 5-Color Control and the Great Sable Stags were a big problem for me. My answers to stag include Wall of Tanglecord and Wurmcoil Engine, which are both terrible against 5CC. My only reasonable way to beat Stag against 5CC is to make them discard it, but I have nothing against one that is already in play. To make matters worse, Brian also had four copies of Volcanic Fallout post board. This version is very difficult for Faeries to beat and I think it’s a great call for the upcoming PTQs if you like control decks.

I played some bad cards like a maindeck Wurmcoil Engine on the Saturday tournament, but I was pretty happy with my Sunday deck.


Spreading Seas has been the best card for me in the Faeries mirror and it should be in every list. I managed to beat two Fae mirrors at the GPT at RIW. My mirror match plan is the best way to beat the dreaded fae deck which is one of the reasons I chose to play it. Here is how I sideboard against the mirror.





All your removal now draws you a card in the process, except the one Disfigure. Peppersmoke kills Spellstutter Sprites and Bitterblossom, tokens which is very important in the matchup. I decided to take out a Preordain because there are already so many cards that are vulnerable to Spellstutter Sprite and we also need to cast a discard spell on turn 1.

The key to the mirror is sending back your opening seven if it does not contain Bitterblossom or a way to discard Bitterblossom. It’s also important to realize that if on the draw, your opponent may have a Mana Leak to counter your Blossom. Spreading Seas is great in the mirror because it’s a removal spell for Creeping Tar Pit and Mutavault.

Vendilion Clique comes out because it does not fight well with Bitterblossom tokens and also gets blocked by Spellstutter Sprite. The ability to see your opponents hand is valuable, but it also has no chance of hitting a turn two Bitterblossom so it’s not as important. Mistbind Clique is less valuable because most spells are played at any phase of the game. It also costs four mana so it will get Mana Leaked and Cryptic Commanded. I still chose to keep some in the deck because it is a good way for the opponent to have to use their creature tokens to chump block.

Jace Beleren is another avenue to victory when you are not crushing with Bitterblossom. The Spreading Seas help him stay alive, especially since you should wait to put them on a Creeping Tar Pit or Mutavault. When you are able to land the first Jace, you not only pull ahead in cards but you blank their Jaces, limiting them to trading instead of being able to use them effectively. He is one of the few ways to gain card advantage in the mirror, so I like the cheaper version to get under Cryptic Command.

I would recommend Faeries to anyone who is comfortable playing it. This deck is certainly not powerful enough to play and win with if you don’t know how it works. I feel that many players think that is the case, which is why the “best deck” shows up in such large quantities. The strategy of suggesting a deck for everyone is misleading and it is more helpful to the average player if I talk about other types of strategies. Naya is the best aggro deck at the moment in my opinion, because Vengevine and Bloodbraid Elf is good against Faeries. It also has the tools to take down the enchantment based combo decks with the help of Qasali Pridemage. Here is the list I prefer, taken from a Magic Online Daily Event piloted by _VFS_.


There really isn’t much to say about this deck other than it has the tools to beat Faeries a decent amount of the time and still be competitive. There is a tricky line between beating the best deck and being able to fight the rest of the field. Cunning Sparkmage is a great card right now because it kills most of the creatures in Faeries and it can also help burn them out. Vendilion Clique is an important clock when trying to be a control deck because there is not a late game bomb to pick up the pieces. The best way to beat Faeries is to keep the Cliques off of the table and Vengvine will grind them down.

I was playing some Fauna Shaman brews last week and they were decent, but Naya takes the best parts and is a better deck overall. There is a general gravitation towards aggro decks this week because it’s the best way to beat Faeries. The metagame shift I discussed a few weeks ago is coming into effect and next week there will be control decks emerging.

The majority of aggressive decks play Qasali Pridemage in the maindeck, so the Prismatic Omen decks are decreasing in numbers. The amount of Jund decks are also decreasing because the Vengevine decks give it a tough time. This is another reason we can expect to hear more from 4 Color Control.

If you don’t feel like practicing much before the event, I would suggest trying mono red burn. It has been doing very well recently and my buddy Greg Hatch finally qualified for the Pro Tour with it. Here is his list.

My suggestion for upcoming events is to include a black splash for Doom Blade so you can beat cards like Burrenton Forge-Tender. Blightning and Anathemancer are great ways to improve your game against Faeries as well. I know everybody is saying that certain decks beat Faeries, but they actually don’t. Mono red can actually beat Faeries a good percentage of the time and is aggressive enough to be competitive against other decks. This is a deck that becomes popular in particular metagames and then disappears because of the large amounts of hate. This is your weekend to strike with RDW because it probably will be hated out too much a few weeks from now.

The PTQ season has begun and the format will begin to change faster than it has in the past. My best piece of advice is to read articles on Extended every day because there are so many decks being introduced and reintroduced. I am also curious on how many of you would be interested in Extended FNMs. The format changes so fast and you can play whatever deck you want as opposed to the stale standard format. Good luck in the PTQ this weekend, I may make an appearance in Columbus.


10 thoughts on “Mind-Boggling Technology – Making Lax Plays”

  1. How do you know if you’re “familiar” with faeries? I might think I’m familiar with faeries, but given that faeries is such a hard deck to play, that doesnt mean my definition of familiar is the same as your definition of familiar.

  2. The Extended Track Meta:

    Faeries –> Naya / Jund / MRB (aggro) –> Combo / Control –> Faeries

    Example, January 15/16th PTQ top 8s:

    Control (4cc, uw): 9
    Combo (rg shift, mythic, gw trap): 22
    Aggro (mrb, naya): 16
    Faeries: 9

  3. @Kyle:

    While I respect your opinion and your deck choices, I have to say that I firmly disagree with many of your choices for Fae. Not to say that “you’re wrong” or that “I’m right” by any stretch of the imagination, just wanted to share some of my thoughts.

    #1. 2 Spellstutter Sprites: These guys are simply a 4-of or a non-of because of the ridiculous synergies they create with Bitterblossom, Faerie tokens and activated Mutavaults. I mean, except for Fallouts & Stags, these guys can conceivably manhandle anything with a CMC of 3 or less (and sometimes more, depending on your board presence and turn order). I think by only maindecking two, you are missing the point of the Sprites: Counterspells which double as reliable beaters.

    #2. 4 Preordain + 4th Mana Leak: I’ve tested with both of these numbers and quite frankly, they take up far too many slots for my liking. I run 4 Scion of Oona in the place of the Preordains because of their ability to a) be generally unexpected because many Fae lists don’t run them for some reason, b) play a second one in response to the first being targeted by removal, c) enabling your Mutavaults to trade with Stags and d) helping transition from control to beatdown mode fluidly.

    #3. Removal Suite: (1 Smother, 1 Disfigure, 2 Agony Warp): I actually can’t say that I truly disagree with the Smother/Disfigure split if it is based on a metagame choice (Disfigure better v. the field, Smother better v. Naya, RDW, Jund) but right now I’m running 2 Disfigure because a) it costs B at instant speed, b) helps when your tokens need to team up and kill a Demigod of Revenge or anything else large and c) because Smother doesn’t kill Bloodbraid, Vengevine, Demigod or Mistbind Cliques.

    #4. 3 Sunken Ruins: I hate this card. Every time I draw it, I wish it was a Secluded Glen, Darkslick Shores or Creeping Tar Pit. It doesn’t give you the fast mana of the Shores or the Glen, doesn’t beat down like Tar Pit, clearly isn’t Mutavault and sometimes, you just need more basics. I like cutting the Ruins to have access to a second Tectonic Edge and another Swamp + Island.

    #5. Sideboard: Your sideboard kind of seems all over the place, without a whole lot of regard for what you’re taking out during certain matchups except for the Fae mirror. Peppersmoke and Spreading Seas are both medicore cards, what are you trying to snatch with Sower of Temptation and why the Negate instead of a more value card like Glen Elendra Archmage?

    These are just some thoughts and initial reactions to your decklist and specific choices. I’ve read both LSV’s and PV’s articles on Fae (even though Paulo hates calling it Fae) and I feel like they gave a far more in-depth assessment of their choices and the rationale behind them.



  4. For the most part, I enjoyed this article, and I especially liked how you just touched briefly on an important topic of overall gameplay before delving into extended. The one thing I want to comment on:

    “This deck is certainly not powerful to play and win with if you don’t know how it works”.

    Not true at all. I didn’t play magic when Lorwyn was legal in standard, and I was in Costa Rica for a wedding, coming back to the states 3 days before a PTQ. I picked up all the cards for faeries less than 48 hours before the event, never playtested a single game, and went 6-2, missing top 8 on breakers. I made numerous mistakes that likely cost me top 8, but I don’t think they were due to unfamiliarity with the deck. Faeries is almost too powerful, because in my experience it is so easy to pilot for anybody with the most remote idea of how to play competetive magic that it almost isn’t fair.

    That said, I would be intrigued by more casual level Extended tourneys, and my local game shop is running one this weekend. I am hoping it will be a lot of people showing up with bad standard homebrews(a la FNM) so I can win with my finely tuned fae list, but if not, that’s fine too.

  5. @ Harrison Hite

    Faeries is one of the most skill intensive decks, and that means you probably cant win a top 8 without vigorously testing it beforehand, and having a decent sb plan. Sure, mistbind clique is that good, that you can 6-2, but i don’t think you can win with faeries unless you practice.

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  7. It’s silly every writer on here keeps pretending faeries is THE format defining deck…

    It hardly isn’t. It’s just one of the top decks and is hardly played more then any of the other popular decks (jund for example). It also hasn’t been putting up that great results.

    Sure you have to pay attention to it but every fae deck caring mos about the mirror and each deck having to beat fae to win is quite nonsense, more top8s dont have fae in it then those that do atm and it only forms about 15% of the field..

  8. I read the first half of your article 3 weeks ago. I guess you were going by “Conley Woods” back then?


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