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Chasing Victory – Thoughts(eize) on Faeries

I didn’t get to play in the Standard 5K, as I was busy participating in the Game with Fame promotion for Duel of the Planeswalkers on X-Box Live. However, I did get to play some Legacy on Sunday and did a lot of theorizing with Faeries, in addition to battling some on Magic Online, all in preparation for this weeks Minneapolis 5K.

Faeries isn’t the best deck in Standard anymore. I don’t know exactly what is. All of the “real” decks are all capable of ridiculous, hard to beat nut draws. All of the other decks have caught up to Faeries power wise, either via token synergies, cascade, or just by raw power.

I consider all of the top Standard decks to fall under these categories, although there is some overlap:

Tokens

Faeries
WB Tokens
WG Tokens

Green

WG Tokens
Doran
Elves
Jund Aggro
5c Blood

Cascade

5c Blood
Swans
Cascade Control

If your deck is solid against one of the token decks, you should have a good shot against the rest of that category as well. Cards like [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card] are not only good against Faeries, but also against WB Tokens as well. For that reason, I don’t really think of Standard in terms of decks at the moment, but rather as these types of categories. There just isn’t any point to differentiating from Doran and Elves when talking about how your deck breaks down vs. the field.

Obviously, there are differences between those decks that need to be taken into consideration when sideboarding and building your deck, but a lot of the Standard decks are really similar.

Anyway, after the Atlanta 5K, I wanted to explore Faeries a bit further, so I had to be my typical overanalyzing self. I had a few problems with the list I piloted to a Top Eight finish, namely I couldn’t figure out the Green matchup. Playing some more games afterward certainly helped, but going into the 5K, I know I didn’t have the best configuration possible. I still had a lot to learn.

Thoughtseize

Over time, I realized how important Thoughtseize can be. Luis and I berated Thoughtseize in the past, but formats shift, and it’s probably time to reconsider. In the Green on Green matchup, I wouldn’t want any Thoughtseizes, for the reasons we discussed previously, but for Faeries vs. Green, Thoughtseize is incredibly important on both sides.

Faeries is a tribal deck, and as such, hinges on all of its cards working together in harmony. If Elves can sidestep that somehow, like with a turn one Thoughtseize nailing Bitterblossom, then Faeries is often left with some uncastable Mistbind Cliques.

Despite GB being frequently referred to as Elves, it’s not nearly as tribal centric as Faeries. A Thoughtseize aimed at an Elf player isn’t nearly as debilitating when compared to the damage it does to the Fae. “Elves” is just another green deck running on raw power. Putrid Leech gave those decks a huge upgrade.

As a brief aside, I am just about sick of all of the Tarmogoyf clones running around. We all thought Doran was sick at 3cc, and now WotC basically makes another version that costs two and isn’t legendary. On top of this, Lightning Bolt and Ball Lightning are rumored to be in M10. I better get a Rune Snag, Mana Leak, or Spell Snare, otherwise M10 is really going to impact my overall fun level when playing Magic. I would prefer to not be the person casting Ball Lightings, ok?

So consider a Faeries player who Thoughtseizes a Green player, and takes a two or three drop out of their hand. What did they accomplish? Best case scenario, Faeries poked a hole in the curve of the Green deck, hoping to buy some time at the expense of two life. However, that most likely won’t be the case, as the green decks are full of animals. Chances are, Seize snatches a superfluous two drop, and the green deck plays a Vanquisher on turn two instead of a Leech.

Faeries would much rather have the green decks have to cast the two drop (or whatever it is that they are Thoughtseizing) and then deal with the threat on their own terms. Instead, Thoughtseize commits you to tapping mana on your own turn, costs you life, and is a terrible midgame topdeck.

So why do I suddenly think Thoughtseize is so important? Well, as is the case most of the time, the dynamics of a matchup change drastically post board. When GB is able to bring in Cloudthresher, Faeries needs a way to effectively combat that guy. Most Fae players just cut Broken Ambitions against Elves, as it rarely counters anything on the draw or if GB has a Llanowar. They bring in Flashfreeze to keep their counterspell count relatively high, but those are just as bad on the draw. Basically the only upside is being a cheap way to counter Cloudthresher.

Conventional wisdom used to suggest that Profane Command gets sided out against Faeries, but many players seem to keep those in nowadays. I don’t like Profane against Faeries, as the fear mode is at it’s worst, and sorcery speed removal pointed at a Sower is pretty terrible against things like Scion and Broken Ambitions. Granted, conventional wisdom says that Scion and Ambitions should probably be sided out against Elves, but that doesn’t mean that people are necessarily going to do it. Ambitions is alright on the play, and if the Fae player knows that the GB player is keeping in Maelstrom Pulse and Profane, keeping in Scion is more than fine.

Personally, I like Scion against Elves. They usually have Pulse and/or Profane, it makes combat against 4/4s easier, and sometimes you just have to race Chameleon Colossus. The strike against Scion is that Cloudthresher exists, but Scion is very good against Elves if you are able to stop their Threshers, or if they simply don’t draw them.

Thoughtseize was the answer I was looking for. I definitely want to be more aggressive with Faeries post board, and almost turn my deck into a sorcery speed deck. I am more than happy to be tapping out for Deathmark, Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, and Sowers. Keeping mana open all the time, hoping to counter everything they play, just isn’t a winning strategy against Elves. They use their mana much more efficiently than Faeries, and if they are scared of counterspells, or even if they don’t have spells to cast, they can just attack with manlands.

You also need Thoughtseize in a lot of other matchups. Zealous Persecution, Volcanic Fallout, Bloodbraid Elf, and Cloudthresher are all cards that easier to stop with discard than counterspells. Also because of cards like these, I think that Faeries has to become more aggressive in order to survive.

So, with all that in mind, here is what I will probably play, give or take a few cards of course, at the Minneapolis 5K.

Faeries

The Tidings always looks kind of awkward, but I want a way to refuel after trading a bunch against the mirror and green decks. Pithing Needle is help against Treetops mainly.

To rehash an old PV article, there are four types of games in the mirror. You have Bitterblossom and they don’t, they have Bitterblossom and you don’t, you both have Bitterblossom, and neither of you have Bitterblossom.

Unless one person manages to get really aggressive, the person with Bitterblossom will almost always win. The way to beat a Bitterblossom without your own usually involve Scion, Sower, and Mutavault. Mistbind Clique is also ok, but you need to get pretty lucky to make it work. Both players are trying to Thoughtseize the other one, and usually the target is whatever makes the Clique good.

For example, I recently just played a match on Magic Online where I was on the play, and Thoughtseized my opponent, seeing:

Agony Warp
Scion of Oona
Mistbind Clique
Broken Ambitions
Island
Sunken Ruins
Secluded Glen

Potential arguments about his poor keep aside, I took the Ambitions since I had a Peppersmoke and a Bitterblossom, leaving him with two fairly useless cards. It wasn’t hard to win from there. Too often there isn’t much in play to champion for the Clique, and if there’s only one thing in play, you can get blown out by a single removal spell. Mutavault helps, but Clique is good when it costs four, not when it costs six (in order to play around a single removal spell) and kills one of your lands.

I would definitely side out Cliques in the mirror, and can’t recommend ever keeping in more than two.

As for the Boston Legacy 5K, I played this:

Tarmo-Trinket

This list is an amalgam of my Kyoto side event deck, my GP Chicago deck, and Brassman’s Chicago deck. I wanted to play an Exile into Darkness maindeck, but couldn’t find one, so ran a second Explosives instead.

I beat Cedric’s (Kowal’s) Deadguy deck round one, but then lost two Counterbalance mirrors.

In round two, I could have played defensively and maybe played around a third Vendilion Clique, or played aggressively and tried to kill him, and he found his third Vendilion to put me down a game. Elspeth was giving me some trouble game one, thanks to Thoughtseize and Annul keeping me off balance, but eventually my opponent made enough mistakes and I drew enough spells to kill it with my Mishra’s Factory. However, that still wasn’t enough, as my opponent was able to kill me (I think with Tarmogoyfs). It didn’t matter though, as we didn’t have much time left at that point and he had slowed down his pace of play dramatically.

Round three I just got Sowered a bunch, and lost a match that basically came down to who drew better, and both myself and my opponent were playing good Magic.

I was very surprised at how quickly everyone caught up. I lost because I basically didn’t give people enough credit. At GP Chicago, I felt like despite my deck being subpar, I still had a much better list than everyone else, and no one really knew how to play with or against Counterbalance. I built my deck as such, but by the time the 5K rolled around, everyone had it figured out, and my deck seemed to no longer be good anymore.

At GP Chicago, I lost two matches to Kird Ape and Nimble Mongoose, hence the addition of Factories, but obviously at the 5K, no one had those cards in their decks anymore. They had upgraded to Tops and Counterbalances, and I was left in the dark, attempting to fight battles that didn’t exist.

Still, I had a solid inevitability plan in place for the mirror with my Intuitions, Loam package, and recurring Explosives and Shackles (and Exile, had I been able to find one), but my first “mirror” had things like Vendilion and the second had Sowers. I still had more Goyfs and Swords than he had Goyfs and Sowers, but I didn’t have that many more, and he simply drew more than me.

I think I need an inevitability plan that doesn’t involve creatures. At least not giant ones that beat me once my opponent steals them. Elspeth might be worth looking into.

In closing, I’d like to point out a few things that are Hot or Not in Standard, similar to what Josh Utter-Leyton did this week. I am probably right to assume that not all of you are interested in Faeries.

HOT

Putrid Leech: This guy has actually redefined Standard. So many versions of Jund are running around, and the Leech is even the cornerstone of the new 5cc, although granted that is basically just a Jund deck. The recently forgotten Elves archetype was even resuscitated thanks to this guy. He is even single handedly responsible for a lot of the Hot cards on this list.

Don’t listen to Wrapter. Bramblewood Paragon isn’t even close to this guy. Sure, Paragon into Perfect protects your guys from Pyroclasm, but why would anyone play that card with Leech around? The Paragon is a fine man, especially in RG Elves (which may or may not be better than GB), but he is no Leech.

Paladin En-Vec: This, along with Chameleon Colossus, Deathmark, Snakeform, and Path to Exile, are all starting to see massive play thanks to Leech and friends. Don’t play Jund if you can’t deal with the Paladin. Snakeform is probably your best bet if you are straight Jund, although if you are running Chapin’s deck, Path might be a better answer as that deck is already clogged with three drops.

Windborn Muse: Brian Kibler and I simultaneous stumbled across this one for GP Seattle, and both of us based our Reveillark decks around it. Now, the Muse is seeing play in token decks and even the cascade land destruction deck. Token decks are a dying breed, but if you expect a lot of tokens, Windborn Muse might be what you’re looking for.

Thoughtseize: Alara Reborn did a little bit more than just speed up Limited; Constructed is a little amped up as well. “Midrange” is dying out, so the long, drawn out affairs where you end the game with two useless Thoughtseizes in your hand are a thing of the past. You’re going to want to Thoughtseize away their Bloodbraid Elves, as there isn’t really a better answer.

NOT

Swans of Bryn Argoll: Saito may have been right when he referred to Swans as a “joke deck.” It just isn’t putting up results. A combination of Maelstrom Pulse, Thoughtseize, and the revival of Faeries seems to have put Swans out of the picture. Feel free to put your Pithing Needles away.

Windbrisk Heights: I don’t care if you are named Cedric Phillips. Now is a pretty weak time to be banking on your Spectral Processions getting you there. Thoughtseize and Pulse are huge, and there’s still a little hate left over in Persecution, Fallout, and Cloudthresher. Getting Heights active is more difficult than ever, even a single Peppersmoke can mess you up. If you are bringing the Heights beatdown, you better have something other than the stock lists. You need to adapt.

Wrath of God: It’s a terrible world we live in where Wrath of God no longer strikes fear into the hearts of creatures everywhere. The creatures these days are simply too good. All your opponent has to do is “sandbag” one Bloodbraid Elf to make Wrath look foolish. GB Elves has a million manlands, and Leech has you nearly dead by turn four. What an embarrassment.

Figure of Destiny: I would like to say I hate to keep poking fun at Cedric, but I’d be lying. I watched Cedric get his nut draw of Goldmeadow Stalwart into Wizened Cenn at GP Barcelona and get stopped absolutely cold by a Putrid Leech. Figure of Destiny doesn’t look that much better in the face of the Leech, and it’s something I would gladly Peppersmoke on turn one.

Most of the aggro decks have a lot of taplands these days anyway, so playing Figure on turn one is often just a pipedream.

That’s it for this week!

GerryT

21 thoughts on “Chasing Victory – Thoughts(eize) on Faeries”

  1. if you dont mind me asking were did you her of the next doran / tarmo can you please give some proof

  2. can you please provide proof of the next tarmo / doran wizards are making…
    also if your source is solid will it be in m10? i ask not to offend but to consider about buying a box of m10

  3. You are right about Wrath. A deck playing Bloodbraid-Finks- Thrinax (awsome and unexplored) has nothing to fear from Wrath. Laying a leech down forces the opponent to play a defensive creature. Then Wrath doesnt seem like a great trade.

  4. Your analysis of what’s hot and what’s not is spot on. I had been playing Windborn Muse in the sideboard quite some time ago in a Kowal Boat Brew deck, when it was still played but lesser tested. Nothing is better than locking your opponent out with an Ajani ultimate and windborn on board.

  5. Actually, Lightning Bolt and Ball Lightning are not just rumored to be in m10, they are / will be in fact in the coming core set.

  6. what do you think about splashing red for bloodbraid into bg elves using wayfinder to search up a mountain? seems like it would be a nice way to curve out.

  7. dowjonzechemical: Sure, but that wasn’t my point.

    ad: Burial is just as bad vs Leech and hasters, if not worse. It was alright during the whole WB persist craze, but basically any sweeper is ineffective right now.

    Thor: Seems fine to me, but hitting stuff like Llanowar or Profane is pretty awkward. Like Wrapter said, if you’re playing Bloodbraid, what’s the point of playing black, since you want to cut Profane anyway. RG Elves might actually be pretty good.

    Guys: Can we use the real forums please?

  8. Alex Hemedinger

    Cool stuff, personally I am gonna try jund aggro, really fast, sucks cause flashfreeze owns it 🙁

  9. With the hyper-agressive nature of the current standard environment, do you think that the 4 underground rivers might be too much pain? It seems that with the 4 post-board thoughtseizes, not to mention bitterblossom, the deck does a good amount of damage to itsself already. Would you be better served running 2 additional islands/swamps, or even arcane sanctum? Or is the extra 2-3 damage per game negligable?

  10. Can you keep stating Wrath isn’t hot anymore in your articles? There still people playing the card that believe they are Spikes when they’re actually Timmies. Wrath not appearing in M10 would be nothing but a mercy killing act instead of the heresy against Control that some people believe it would be.

  11. Putrid leech may become worse with Lightning bolt around. It either kills it in response to the pump, making you feel rather stupid for paying GB for a shock to yourself, or it goes to the face, thanking you for lowering your life on your own.

  12. Im thinking Jund aggro is the deck to play. There’s always “that” deck in the format that doesn’t have a bad match-up, this is it.
    Leach, Sygg, Bloodbraid, Pulse, Ram-Gang, Bituminous Blast, Fallout, Anathemancer… Raw power.

  13. So I’m assuming you didn’t bribe any of the opponents at the Legacy event, leading you to a stellar 1-2 drop. Seems reasonable.

  14. Johnny Magic: Right again, as always.

    Marlon: Underground River only damages you when it’s your only colored source. I would rather be able to cast Thoughtseize and Bitterblossom when I draw them instead of having to mulligan an all Island draw.

    The Reflecting Pool helps, as it rarely impacts your draws negatively, while benefiting from an Underground River draw.

    Basically, the deck needs black sources. 15 is about the minimum I would run, and going below that is very dangerous.

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