The first thing I should probably talk about is the playtesting and preparation I did that led me to both the deck I chose and the list I used. After some failed attempts at playing mono-red and Jund, and after seeing the results of the MTGO PTQs it seemed like it would just be silly not to play Faeries; it is just actually that much better than everything else, and if you play it well you have a much larger edge with it than with the rest of the decks.
The list we used was a team effort; Ocho, LSV, and wrapter tested it a ton on MTGO, though I played my fair share as well. I was continually giving input and playing the mirror vs them any chance I could get, but in all honesty they put in much more of the grunt work than me and were invaluable in hammering out the numbers for the final list.
Here is the final list I used in the GP:
The final product was awesome, and if I had to play the deck again there is very little I would change. Jace Beleren was frequently sideboarded out, but in the matchups where he was good he was absolutely amazing; just cheap enough to slip into play on either turn 3 past a Cryptic Command, and hard to deal with. He also combined well with either a discard spell to make sure he resolved or a Bitterblossom to protect him from attackers.
The mix on removal (maindeck and sb) was ideal as it put people in the position of not knowing which to play around, with Peppersmoke being the biggest value. If you ever got to kill something and draw a card it was a blowout, and even casting it to just kill a 1-drop was fine. The main complaint I’ve heard about it is that it doesn’t kill Fauna Shaman but between Thoughtseize on the draw, Mana Leak on the play, and 6 spot removal spells after board (and running way above average) I had no problem keeping Fauna Shaman off the board, and when I couldn’t I just had to string together a couple Mistbind Clique or Cryptic Command to just race their Vengevine draws.
Vampire Nighthawk was an interesting little card suggested by Daveed, the right hand man, the go-to guy, the Swiss army knife, the most useful member, the Plataforma champion, the enforcer, the Ocho. It was another card that is just deceptively very strong; many of my opponents would sideboard out Lightning Bolt and sideboard in Guttural Response, Volcanic Fallout, Cloudthresher, Cunning Sparkmage, Nature’s Claim, Wispmare, and other generally ineffective SB cards. Not only does it almost always win the race against Great Sable Stag, but it also just completely ignores all SB cards people bring in against you (except Path, and in most cases I would prefer if they Path my t3 Hawk). It was the last card added to the sideboard and only a few days prior to the GP so none of us knew for certain if it would be optimal to sideboard it in for the mirror match, which wasn’t much of a problem, because I played vs Naya a few times and was very impressed with it. If it was actually good in the mirror that would just be gravy. I guess the best way to explain how I was sideboarding against certain matchups is to just move on to the matches I played in the tournament.
Round 1-2-3 Byes
Round 4 Kurt Spiess, Naya
When I sat down I saw my opponent wearing a shirt for ‘Team0-2Drop’ so I immediately knew two things: he took the game reasonably seriously and he was going to be one of the softer opponents I would play on the weekend.
G1 he mulliganed to 5 and I was able to keep control of the game just about every turn. I started off with Creeping Tar Pit, and he plays Forest + Birds of Paradise. On my turn my two options were Bitterblossom or activate Mutavault into Peppersmoke. Since he was already on 5 I figured I’d just set him further behind and go with the Peppersmoke. Each turn after that I just one for one’d him with Thoughtseize and Disfigure for his Knight of the Reliquary and Fauna Shaman. I quickly put him away with manlands and Blossom tokens, though on the last turn he could have drawn a 6th land for [card]Inferno Titan[/card] and maybe came back (doubtful) but he drew a Raging Ravine and scooped.
Game two was slightly more interesting as he made a turn 2 Fauna Shaman and I was forced to kill it with two unenhanced Peppersmokes. His turn 3 was Knight of the Reliquary and mine was Vampire Nighthawk. He played a Cunning Sparkmage and passed while I played my 4th land, attacked with Nighthawk, and held up Cryptic. He sent in the Knight and passed with five up, which was very suspicious to me because he opted not to attack with his Raging Ravine.
I would normally just Cryptic to bounce the Knight but I liked my position so waiting seemed reasonable, especially since the rest of my hand was lands, Wurmcoil Engine, and Sower of Temptation. I could Sower the Knight and not get stopped by a potential Sejiri Steppe but I would rather him try to play around the Cryptic I had and was representing, which would let me just use it to bounce and draw in an attempt to gain tempo on my way up to Wurmcoil Engine.
I sent Nighthawk and passed back, and he just drew and sent the Knight, and then cast a Woolly Thoctar with 3 open. I used the Cryptic to counter-draw (drawing another Cryptic, skill game! ) and slammed down Wurmcoil. He shipped the turn back with no play, and when I attacked with Vampire Nighthawk next turn (keeping Wurmcoil home because he had a Noble Hierarch to block with and a Cunning Sparkmage to kill it before damage to deprive me of the 6 lifelink) something very odd happened. He activated Knight of the Reliquary before blocks, floating a green and sacrificing a Forest, after which he looked through his deck a couple times while tanking, eventually settling on a Tectonic Edge and taking the Hawk attack.
It was painfully obvious that this was not his intention because he could just do that at end of turn, so I was able to determine he had the singleton Cloudthresher in hand on turn 5 and that’s what he decided to hold up instead of attacking with Raging Ravine. This turn, his intention was to get a green mana with Knight and hardcast it to kill the Nighthawk (with Sparkmage), but as he searched with Knight he realized he ran out of basic [card]Forest[/card]s and the only lands left in his deck that made green mana were [card]Copperline Gorge[/card], [card]Razorverge Thicket[/card], and [card]Raging Ravine[/card], so he couldn’t find anything and had to change his play into just getting [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] for my multiple [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card]s. Also of note is how I would have stone lost if I had went to Sower his Knight of Reliquary on turn 4 instead of holding up Cryptic, because an evoked [card]Cloudthresher[/card] would have been able to kill Nighthawk and Sower and let him totally turn the game around. Instead, I was able to use the 2nd Cryptic I had drawn earlier to tap his team and my Nighthawk, Wurmcoil, and manlands put him away.
Round 5 – Player of the Year to be Guillaume Matignon, [card]Time Warp[/card] Faeries
This match was covered on GGslive but the games were really uneventful.
In game 1 I drew twice as many lands as him and was able to keep him off proper colors with Tectonic Edge and just able to cast more spells and represent more counters each turn. He eventually scooped after a brutal series of events involving a resolved Bitterblossom and Jace Beleren, after which he got 2-for-1ed off a [card]Disfigure[/card] in response to a Mistbind Clique and I Mana Leaked his Time Warp. Close game!
Game two he played a turn two Bitterblossom and I spiked the Spell Pierce to keep the game fair… that is until he missed his 3rd land drop for multiple turns. One thing I loved about this list was the two sideboard Tectonic Edges as it let me side into a 28 land deck and just not miss land drops, which is key in the mirror. It showed here, it was easy for me to just outland him and when I Thoughtseized and saw 4 Cryptic Commands I just left them all there and continued to Tectonic Edge his blue sources and really limit his options. At no point was I in any danger of losing and 5-6 turns later of back and forth I was able to take it down with ease.
After this match I just had one question left unanswered: I the world champion now?
Round 6 – Nick Ares, Faeries
In Game one he started off with turn 1 Thoughtseize turn 2 Bitterblossom and he basically had the game in his hands just about every turn. I considered scooping at multiple points but continued to fight on as it was going to be over soon anyways, then just that quickly he started to get aggressive with manlands because he had no action in hand so I just ran out a couple Mistbind Cliques as Time Walks and sent him on a Creeping Tar Pit ride and stole the game seemingly from out of nowhere.
Game two he mulliganed to 5 and I kept a marginal hand on the draw that included Spell Pierce, bad spells and a couple lands. This seemed more than fine as I could stop a turn 2 Bitterblossom and just play a normal game with my 7 on the draw vs his 5 card hand. Unfortunately, he played turn 1 Thoughtseize t2 Bitterblossom again and I had my back against the wall.
He untapped and made a 2nd Bitterblossom and passed with no land, so I decided I needed to get aggressive to win and ran out a Spellstutter Sprite, Peppersmoked his token and attacked for one. He drew and passed and I fired up the Tar Pit and ranched him for 3. I was in command and was winning the race until next turn when I made a really sloppy play. By this time he had drawn and made two more land drops so he had Cryptic up, but Tar Pit had hit the two turns previous so I didn’t think anything of it (and was playing fast admittedly) so I snap played out a Mutavault and activated the Tar Pit again. This allowed him to bounce and draw with Cryptic, where if I had just held my land until after combat he would be forced to bounce or tap it, and both ways I could just send again next turn. This meant I had to skip a turn of Tar Pit beats to play a spell, Sower of Temptation, which met a counterspell, Spellstutter Sprite.
On the last turn of the game he activated Mutavault and sent it in with all his tokens, adding a Scion of Oona, but on course with my luck on the weekend we counted it up and it was 15 damage when I was at 16 so he scooped.
Round 7 – Mark Nestico, Naya
Game one was long and complicated; basically every turn I was one damage short of killing him and he kept adding haste creatures to the board. Basilisk Collar + Cunning Sparkmage made things more difficult, and he took it in the end.
Game two I had turn 3 Nighthawk and his draw was pretty lackluster. I honestly don’t remember much about this game besides that I won.
Game three I had Thoughtseize on the draw and his hand was 2 Path to Exile, Fauna Shaman (which I took) and a couple lands. He drew into a Qasali Pridemage which I killed off with some piece of spot removal, and eventually just Tectonic Edged his Razorverge Thicket because he had no other white mana for the Paths. Two Nighthawks killed him shortly thereafter.
Round 8 – Small Child, Naya
Game one I keep a poor hand and he drew the perfector hand of turn 1 Noble Hierarch turn 2 Woolly Thoctar turn 3 Woolly Thoctar turn 4 Knight of the Reliquary and I just got run over. Looks like someone called 911 and the Woolly Doctor showed up, which sucked because my only out was for him to mess up…the whole time I was thinking: “Wooly or won’t he?”
Game two I Disfigured his Fauna Shaman into a t3 Nighthawk, which he followed with a Woolly Thoctar. I killed it with Grasp of Darkness, holding up Mana Leak and having four lands out with Cryptic Command in hand. Unsurprisingly, I won the game a few turns later.
Game three I kept this:
on the draw. It isn’t the best hand in the world but I felt like I had two draws at plenty of cheap removal/disruption cards that I could keep and not just get crushed quickly. I drew a land and he played a turn 2 Fauna Shaman, so naturally I continued my rungood nature and rolled off a Grasp of Darkness for the shaman.
Another reason I kept that hand was that I felt like nothing in his deck really matched up well against Nighthawk; I mean, I was 7-0, so obviously all of his Bloodbraid Elves were going to hit Birds of Paradise, making the matchup comically easy. Something pretty crazy would have to happen for him to beat most of the cards I sided in, especially since he was siding in Sparkmages (which are terrible against our postboard deck) and I was siding in Sowers, Nighthawks, and more spot removal. It felt like if there was a Cryptic Command in the top 20 cards of our deck, we should win most of the games, and results showed that to be pretty accurate. In the tournament, none of us lost to Naya except Wrapter, who got conveniently one-outered by Inferno Titan.
Round 9 – Guillaume Wafo-tapa, 5cControl
This was covered over on the Mothership here.
Game one I had turn 1 Thoughtseize turn 2 Bitterblossom and luckily for me, even though he drew an Esper Charm to potentially kill it, his hand also included no lands and a Volcanic Fallout so he opted to draw 2. A second Thoughtseize stripped the Fallout and then I went for an end of turn Grasp of Darkness on Wall of Omens which was met by a Cryptic Command, so I untapped and resolved Jace, the Mind Sculptor. This is a normal sequence of plays in control mirrors; use a strong game-breaking card at end of turn to force them to tap out so you can untap and resolve one that is only slightly worse. Jace survived the next 10 turns and I casually crushed him.
The crappy removal was for random walls and Baneslayer Angel.
Game two I had very little action and we just played draw-go, with neither of us missing a single land drop. I thought that this would favor me because I had 4 Tectonic Edge but he was able to simply win a counterwar over a Thoughtseize and strip my last Cryptic so he could untap and cast Cruel Ultimatum. Winning from there was elementary for him.
Game 3 I was on the play and kept a pretty weak hand:
I was on the play and his first land was a Vivid land so the coast was clear for turn 2 Bitterblossom. He fired back with a Thoughtseize taking Cryptic Command. I untapped and drew Jace Beleren (oops) and kept it out of range of being killed by a Volcanic Fallout by using the +2. I drew a Thoughtseize soon after and took a peek at his landless hand with him stuck on 3. When he did finally hit his land I simply used 2 Tectonic Edges, one in response to another, and that sent him packing.
Starting out 9-0 felt pretty good. I was very happy with how I played throughout the day, as well as the list I used, and everyone else seemed to be in good spirits as well, with LSV, wrapter, and Ochoa all starting out at 8-1. Next week I’ll bring you part 2, filled with all sorts of interesting plays as I go 13-0wen.
See you then!