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Rogue Report – If You Can’t Beat Em…

 

You’ve been preparing for this tournament for weeks. Every maindeck and sideboard slot has been meticulously picked apart. You’ve got the hot tech for the mirror match, and nobody will expect your transformative sideboard. You’re mentally prepared. You’ve gotten enough sleep. You have water. Food. Dice. Deck. You’re ready for battle.

Look at his noob across the table from you. Doesn’t he know who you are? He just doesn’t get it. He might as well concede and save the time it takes to shuffle. You don’t even need to win the die roll. Decks are presented, cut, and hands are drawn. He keeps. Three lands, four spells, you’re good to go. “Keep,” you say. You’re already mentally writing the tournament report – PTQ report *1st place!*

Opponent plays his land, a Secluded Glen. Fairies; you’re fine with that, you tell yourself as you begin to breathe a little heavier.

In slow motion you see your opponent’s fingers untapping the Glen. “Reveal Bitterblossom,” he says. Sweat forms on your brow. Good, he might actually put up a fight you think, chuckling to yourself.

Secluded Glen taps and your hands begin to shake. Blue mana is seen entering the mana pool as your opponent reaches into his dice bag. He has it – the freaking noob has it. Ancestral Visions looms over the battlefield and suddenly the breakfast you ate seems like a bad idea.

0-1

The Faerie Menace

The dreaded Secluded Glen, Bitterblossom, Ancestral Visions start plagued standard while it was legal, and now the Blue men have found their way into Extended. What’s great about Faeries? Their gameplan is so straightforward in the sense that it doesn’t really matter what spells your opponent is casting, your cards still stop them. Mistbind Clique still makes them lose a turn. Spellstutter Sprite still counters their spells, and in a way is more effective because the spells are generally cheaper anyway. The whole strategy of “play Bitterblossom then get free 1/1s while you continue to play Magic” still works.

Take a look at Jamie Acrhdekin’s PTQ winning deck out of Montreal Canada:

Just like Affinity, it’s a strategy that originated in standard (or even Block Constructed) that was powerful enough to cross over into extended. Faeries even has an advantage over Affinity in the sense that the sideboard hate for Faeries is much less useful in Extended. Volcanic Fallout isn’t very good against the rest of the format, and Faeries even has Umezawa’s Jitte to deal with any Great Sable Stags.

While both Affinity and Faeries are linear decks, Faeries is far less linear than the artifact deck. Just look at least year’s Blue deck featuring Spellstutter Sprite along with small wizard synergies. There wasn’t a Mistbind Clique in sight and the tribe still had the gas to rock the format.

That’s why when I look at this deck (no offense PTQ winner Jamie), it looks lazy. The cards from the standard Faerie deck were simply upgraded for Extended. Scion of Oona became Umezawa’s Jitte. Mana Leak and Spell Snare took over for Rune Snag or Broken Ambitions or whatever marginal counterspell was used at one time or another. Some of the cards have been upgraded, but the deck itself remains largely the same, powered by the large Jitte upgrade.

Clearly the deck works as-is. Faeries continues to see success in Extended with versions very much like this one. However, I can’t help but want so much more out of the deck. I have a hard time believing that the best application of Spellstutter Sprite is in a such a straightforward recreation of the standard deck. So what can be done?

All the Cool Kids are Doing It

One of the most obvious things to do to the current faerie deck is add the Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek combo to the deck. I’ve heard people talk about doing this to Faeries, but have yet to see a list. I guess that means making one myself.

The combo itself has a weird place in the deck. On one hand, it is really good at stopping you from killing yourself with a Bitterblossom. Heck, you could run out the double Bitterblossom much more often if you know that you’ll get even one turn with the combo (not to mention Jitte). There are also minor synergies like discarding Sword of the Meek to Thirst for Knowledge, then getting it back off of a 1/1 Faerie. Also, the Faerie deck is naturally disruptive, which makes the opponent’s plan of attack on your combo harder to execute. Since Faeries can be aggressive, even a Thopter Foundry by itself can sacrifice some Moxes and maybe add enough aggression to finish somebody off or win a race. Faeries can use random 1/1s more than DDepths can. Finally, the combo is a way for Faeries to beat aggressive decks, an area the deck has struggled in the past.

The awkward part is that the combo just makes a bunch of 1/1s. Well, it gains life, but the aggressive part of the combo is in a bunch of 1/1s, much like the rest of faeries. Since the combo is just doing more of what the deck does anyway, just more efficiently, the deck gets trumped by something like Night of Soul’s Betrayal.

One of the reason DDepths/Foundry works so well is that each of the deck’s plans are hard to attack simultaneously. Damping Matrix has been picking up popularity, and that’s a card that Faeries doesn’t care nearly as much about. Since the deck still plays good creatures it can always win the old fashioned way, making it hard to hate out with narrow cards. Umezawa’s Jitte and a creature is almost like this deck’s second combo.

Here’s my attempted at Cool Kids Faeries:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know why current Faeries decks aren’t playing a Chrome Mox, Thirst for Knowledge, and Dark Confidant engine over Ancestral Visions. With Chrome Mox the deck suddenly has two very exciting first turn options – Bitterblossom and Dark Confidant. Confidant and [card]Bitterblossom[/card] are very similar in a way, each netting you free cards at the start of each of your turns for a marginal life sacrifice. A deck that has capitalized on Bitterblossom for years can naturally accept Dark Confidant into its strategy.

Another way to go with this deck is to start to look more like Tezzeret with the planeswalker himself and some Trinket Mages. That gives the deck interesting options like Pithing Needle to stop opposing Thopter-Sword combo, allowing you to win just off of a Bitterblossom.

One idea was to add a little White and play some Steelshaper’s Gifts, but I wanted to start with the simplest version. Speaking of adding White”¦

Faeries a la Esper

The next place I looked to try to ‘next level’ Faeries was adding another color. White struck me as the best option after seeing an Esper Mystical Teachings deck in action. The manabase was superb. Sac lands found Watery Grave/Hallowed Fountain which turned on Glacial Fortress and Drowned Catacomb. I was hesitant to add a color to the Faeries manabase because of how painful I thought it would be, but this manabase works very well with very little pain.

Path to Exile was also a reason to play White. I hate that the deck plays Doom Blade in Extended, and simply by adding Path to Exile the deck immediately gains percentage points against Dark Depths. There are also interesting new sideboard options with white, like Rest for the Weary, my new favorite anti-red card. Not to mention Circle of Protection: Red. Heck, you could even go as far as Kitchen Finks if you wanted to.

The other card I wanted to try was, wait for it,Momentary Blink. Who doesn’t want to Momentary Blink a Mistbind Clique? Spellstutter Sprite? Even Vendilion Clique with Blink is fun.

I also wanted this deck to have more outs to Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek now that it had legitimate answers to a 20/20. The deck has natural advantages in cheap cards like Spellstutter Sprite and Spell Snare, but if DDepths wants a Thopter Foundry to resolve they can usually do it. I decided to take another page out of the Mystical Teachings decks and play the namesake card along with an Extirpate. Suddenly the deck has answers.

Here’s my most recent version:

As you can see I went with the Chrome Mox, Dark Confidant, Thirst for Knowledge engine again. The deck is a little lacking in artifacts, but there are things like Spell Snare or extra Bitterblossoms that aren’t very painful to discard. Even Momentary Blink and Mystical Teachings provide marginal advantages when discarded. Still, more artifacts would be nice.

There isn’t a lot of White in this deck, as you’ll notice, but white does add nice sideboard cards. Also, Path to Exile is a huge upgrade over Doom Blade and might be worth playing White just by itself. Esper Charm is another card I wanted to play, but ultimately just couldn’t find the room.

The struggle with this deck is trying to find the right balance between Faeries and Mystical Teachings control. I like being able to sideboard into more of a control deck against aggro, but being able to keep the faeries tempo and disruption plan active against combo and control. I believe that faeries can be much more flexible than it is currently.

Conclusion

I like where each of these versions of Faeries is going. Each one is adding more ways to deal with DDepths/Foundry while simultaneously trying to help the aggro matchups. Hopefully we can agree that the current faeries decks out there aren’t optimal, yet they continue to succeed. That tells me that if somebody put the time into faeries to take it to the next level, the payoffs would be great. All it takes is a little creativity and elbow grease.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on Twitter
Zygonn on Magic Online

38 thoughts on “Rogue Report – If You Can’t Beat Em…”

  1. Dark Confidant, Chrome Mox, Path to Exile, Thopter/Sword, Tarmogoyf, Bant Charm, Blink, Teachings, Kataki, Lightning Bolt, Earthquake, etc.

    They’ve been tried, they aren’t good.

    Taking damage from Confidant as well as Blossom is “too much damage, too little gain”.

    I used to stick 1 Chrome mox as my 25th land, power out T1 blossoms. I feel having Snare/Visions up is a lot more important.

    You want extra lifegain for Fae? Play Sorin, now THAT breaks up the mirror match in half. Also allows for Alpha strikes out of nowhere.

    Want to beat depths? Main deck expirpates/duress/seizes like Chapin does. Put the hurt on Scapeshift while your at it, and I hear it’s good against these cascading decks.

    Want to beat Dredge or Thopter combo? Take a page out of Sam Black’s book and go back to playing 4x Leyline instead of that crappy Relic.

    Want a clock that guarantees you cards drawn, Cheon showed us how to do that and play Finkel (probably over Vendillion).

    Losing to Zoo? Help me Smother, E.E. and Damnation; your my only hope.

    There are soo many cards one can use out of Black and Blue in extended, going for a third colour or a second game plan SLOWS DOWN the original one of making some dorks, draw some cards, counter some others, steal a turn or two and ask for a concession once Jitte hits play.

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  3. how would you take faeries to de next level with worldwake or any new adds??

    plus I do like the ansestral vision in the faeries deck can you elavorate on your desition plz
    thanks

  4. Dark Confidant, Chrome Mox, Path to Exile, Thopter/Sword, Tarmogoyf, Bant Charm, Blink, Teachings, Kataki, Lightning Bolt, Earthquake, etc.
    They've been tried, they aren't good.
    Taking damage from Confidant as well as Blossom is "too much damage, too little gain".
    I used to stick 1 Chrome mox as my 25th land, power out T1 blossoms. I feel having Snare/Visions up is a lot more important.
    You want extra lifegain for Fae? Play Sorin, now THAT breaks up the mirror match in half. Also allows for Alpha strikes out of nowhere.
    Want to beat depths? Main deck expirpates/duress/seizes like Chapin does. Put the hurt on Scapeshift while your at it, and I hear it's good against these cascading decks.
    Want to beat Dredge or Thopter combo? Take a page out of Sam Black's book and go back to playing 4x Leyline instead of that crappy Relic.
    Want a clock that guarantees you cards drawn, Cheon showed us how to do that and play Finkel (probably over Vendillion).
    Losing to Zoo? Help me Smother, E.E. and Damnation; your my only hope.
    There are soo many cards one can use out of Black and Blue in extended, going for a third colour or a second game plan SLOWS DOWN the original one of making some dorks, draw some cards, counter some others, steal a turn or two and ask for a concession once Jitte hits play.

    Oh, I’m sorry… was this already said?

  5. Tried a lot of 3-color Fae builds. Literally the only reason I found that was worth it was getting Perimeter Captain against Zoo. That’s it.

    Now if you think that’s good enough, do it. Super Kraken Hatchling may be just enough to get past Fast Zoo with the deck.

  6. I’ve been playing a Grixis version recently, with Firespout and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. It works all right. Firespout helps out against Zoo more than EE and is also good in against Affinity. Kiki-Jiki is probably just me being greedy, but he’s surprisingly versatile and works nicely with all the decks creatures (kinda like Momentary Blink), not just Pestermite. I dunno if Fae is really in the best position in this metagame, though; some Zoo decks are running Volcanic Fallout just for Elves and Fae gets hurt in the crossfire.

  7. Why are all you guys getting angry when he suggests something other than a stock build of the fae. It's like you are personally insulted that he is trying something new with your deck. I played a lot of Faeries and I played teachings I think this is a really interesting take on both decks. It may not currently be better than the fae deck with literally hundreds of thousands of play hours, but it may be a step in the right direction of a newish archetype. If it were not for people stepping out of the box every once and a while you people would have no new decks to play.

    Great deck and great article, keep them coming.

  8. I have been testing Fearies with Path for some time, no issue at all regarding mana. Depth is just an auto win, as Faeries can deal with anything other than a turn 2 Thopter foundry. That is of course only an issue if they have sword.

    Zoo is a real issue and for this reason, which is why I am still tinkering with my build. Momentary Blink I think is really good and will be a path I will to go down. Visions, I feel is not good enough. If you do not play it early i.e. turn 1-2, it has little effect as it comes out way too late. Also drawing multiple Visions is just bad especially in a late game scenario where it is a dead draw. That is why I have been considering the new Jace.

    Finally, Craig wonderful suggestion. How many cards do you play 75 main, 20 SB. Yes of course there a million and one answers to everything, but could you please post a deck list that includes all the cards you have listed in a 60 card deck and 15 cards side board. Cheers

  9. Great Article. I miss fae a lot these days. I think, for however much it was villanized last year, it was one of the more fun “The Decks” ever.

  10. Adding other archtypes to the fairies deck makes it strictly worse. The new versions that you present rely way to heavily on bitterblosum to make the fairie engine run. Stock fairie list are strong because while bitterblossum is insane, the deck runs without it also. Another reason for you wanting to add white was because you can play path over doom blade. Smother was just reprinted and seems strong enough that it does not warent splashing another color just to upgrade.

    Just my 2 cents

  11. I agree, this is very innovative. For next week, try putting the Thopter Sword combo in Zoo.

    lol that just made my day

  12. I hate to be angry grammar/spelling nerd… but this has got to be the second or third article i’ve seen this week by different people calling it “Ancestral Visions”

    There is no “s.” It’s vision. I wouldn’t care, except it breaks the hotlink.

    Not a big deal, though. Great article! I think any deck can be improved by switching to esper colors.

  13. Having played Noble Fae in standard (UBg, Noble Hierarch+Kitchen Finks), I would be a big supporter of more interesting variations on the standard model.

    However, I have to agree with most of what’s been said in the comments- this doesn’t seem like the right way to go. I am curious about the Firespout version that boosh mentioned above. Possibly with Kiki-mite in the sideboard?

  14. @dwbrannon: I think you are right that Craig lists too many cards, but to me it seems that the real power of Fairies in extended is that it is perfectly poised to adapt to metagame changes with minimal impact on the main deck win conditions. In other words, Fairies can change the fastest in response to the meta.

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  16. @Josh G (who said) “I think you are right that Craig lists too many cards, but to me it seems that the real power of Fairies in extended is that it is perfectly poised to adapt to metagame changes with minimal impact on the main deck win conditions. In other words, Fairies can change the fastest in response to the meta.”

    do you buy cards on craigslist? I always get scammed by Expatriate Nigerian Princes promising me loads of Power 9 when I give them my bank acct. number!

  17. So glad Craig is getting all the positive feedback, next time I’ll copy paste his post too. 😛

    You could see a hundred different takes on Fae build, it just depends what you want to beat pre-board, post-board and auto-lose to.

    I agree that Blink and PtE were excellent, especially against thopter/depths (either or both). I think Craig and I just adapted our game plan for those decks with using just black or blue.

    My secret tech is I cut 2 Mana Leaks for 2 Spell Pierce, and I can play turn 3 Blossom on the play and get around Leak/Snare in the mirror.

  18. Wow you guys are literally idiots for bashing someone trying something different. There have actually been a few different people playing Thopter-Sword in Faeries that have been doing relatively well in 4-Round tournaments on MTGO lately. While I do not agree that the changes are good enough to warrant a shift in the archetype, I think trying to get new ideas out there is admirable.

    Did people laugh at GerryT for putting Thopter-Sword into Dark Depths? Only until he made Top4 of a PTQ, then won the very next one.

  19. This article was needed. More and more needs to be pondered regarding this decks near future. I agree how good it has been but am a little scared that it will be forcing alot of meta call decks to pop up and change things again opening up cracks for the exsisting tier one decks to generate more top 8 showings. I went back to u/w blink and added faeries into the mix. I didn’t want to go into black for the blossom cause of the tempo of the deck already.

    Here it is-
    4 ancestral vision
    4 mana leak
    4 riftwing cloudskate
    4 vendillion clique
    2 momentary blink
    2 path to exile
    3 cryptic command
    2 venser shaper savant
    3 spell snare
    3 spellstutter sprite
    3 wipe away
    2 umezawas jitte

    the land base is usual and plays 4 mutavaults and one ghost quarter.
    It’s got good MU with most of the top decks and the SB is always changing

  20. This entire article was basically saying:

    “I have been playing Dark Foundry, but I recently got the pants beat off of me by Faeries, so I want to switch to the deck that beat me. But I don’t want to let go of Dark Foundry, even though it’s clearly faulty these days. Perhaps I’ll take a Faeries deck, throw away everything synergistic about it without really looking at it under a microscope, and then come out with a finished product!”

    I think Loucks would be better off taking his Dark Foundry deck, putting 8 more counterspells into it, and forgetting about Faeries. That’s the trend this entire article follows, anyways…even that list with Mystical Teachings ran Bobs, TfKs, etc.

  21. GerryT didn’t “put Thopter-Sword into Dark Depths” Lucas Siow and crew were the original innovators (at least as far as high profile goes) as far back as PT Austin… though their deck is probably better categorized as Dark Depths in Thopter Sword.

  22. Faeries already crushes DD so I don’t see why you feel Path to Exile is needed for that half of the combo, although I liked the article overall.

  23. @ToddAnderson
    I am all for Innovation, it’s the reason I’ve been reading Jon Loucks and Z.B. in the first place (since TCGplayer, mind you). (Note: And I read you to figure out how to best beat Zoo).

    Nevertheless, his process of trying to fit Dark Confidant+Thopter/Sword into a variety of different Fae builds does not make for optimal build. Why? Because of linear nature of Faeries leaves little room to innovate in the first place. That is, the UB Bitterblossom build.

    Now, there are ways to innovate Fae that could use T/S combo: such as Bant Fae. You cut fatty cards such as Jitte, Blossom, Seize, Mistbind, etc; and you add better finishers such as Goyf, better removal such as Bant Charm and PtE and better lifegain in Finks.

    Oh, wait, isn’t that already a deck called Bant? Well then, maybe we should add Thopter into Bant??

    Or maybe just UW Fae instead, that saw play last season… and this season it’s called Protect the Queen. Hmmm…

    Lastly, if this was meant to be an article on Fae, he still could have done that: build the optimal build for any given metagame. Different versions that beat Aggro, Combo or Control, and an amalgated version of those decks. And that would have been a fine piece.

    Otherwise, Matt said it best:

    "I have been playing Dark Foundry, but I recently got the pants beat off of me by Faeries, so I want to switch to the deck that beat me. But I don't want to let go of Dark Foundry, even though it's clearly faulty these days. Perhaps I'll take a Faeries deck, throw away everything synergistic about it without really looking at it under a microscope, and then come out with a finished product!"

  24. Todd, what do you want to hear? A bunch of meaningless “Looks, interesting, I’ll have to try it!” posts?

    The bottom line is the percentage you gain on the meta by changing the standard list, and I think the answer here is none in both cases. The Thopter Faerie lists aren’t horrible. Hell, you could probably win a PTQ with them. However, I think they’re just worse than both stock Faeries and DD Thopter. Faeries with Thopter trades consistency for power, which isn’t necessarily bad, but the potential upside for it just isn’t there. I can’t really think of many decks where the Thopter kill is a major upgrade over just beating with Mistbind and Blossom tokens. The obvious exception is Zoo, but you’re also losing value in that matchup by creating more awkward hands, having less removal and making artifact hate awesome against you instead of merely serviceable. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to play Thopter Sword in every deck and I just don’t think it makes sense here.

    As for the list splashing white, I really think craig nailed it. It’s not necessary. The strength of Faeries is that the stock lists already have all the tools to combat any deck in the format without mucking up your mana base. The increased fetching and shocklands really do take their toll and I don’t like how Jonathan glossed over that. I’ve won multiple games this season in PTQ play specifically because I was able to avoid excess life loss due to fetching, and I’m totally fine with potentially losing to a Marit Lage nut draw if it means I’m not potentially bolting myself to kill a Wild Nacatl or getting stuck with uncastable cards. The Faeries manabase as it is right now is rock solid and I need a more compelling reason than Path, SB cards against fringe decks, or a textbook win-more in the form of Blink to change that.

    Hopefully this is slightly more constructive criticism.

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  26. this is the last paragraph of his article

    “I like where each of these versions of Faeries is going. Each one is adding more ways to deal with DDepths/Foundry while simultaneously trying to help the aggro matchups. Hopefully we can agree that the current faeries decks out there aren't optimal, yet they continue to succeed. That tells me that if somebody put the time into faeries to take it to the next level, the payoffs would be great. All it takes is a little creativity and elbow grease.”

    he is not saying take these lists and win a pt. he is saying that these are some ideas he has come up with and that with more work in its new larger card pool the fae could become a different and better deck than it was in standard or block. rather than bashing someone for trying new ideas perhaps you should at least consider that innovation has to come from somewhere….. and it does not come from being agressively close minded about new thoughts.

  27. @Lynxcat,

    *sigh* So glad Craig is getting all the props.

    …Why am I bothered by this? *shrugs* /rhetorical.

  28. No one seems to be pointing out that all the critical posts seem to be focusing on the fact that this build differs from tourny winning lists. Guys – the series is exclusively about rouge/non-standard lists. It should be a foregone conclusion that the man isn’t going to dump a 74 card clone of a PTQ winner on you. If you want to read about the existing tech, be my guest, but don’t rag on JL for not giving it to you – he told you what this was before you hopped into bed with him.

  29. Hey, if you write an article about how you destroyed the mana curve and linear strengths of Faeries just to put your pet combo into the deck, you should know what kind of comments are going to appear down the page. Loucks should know from his plethora of deckbuilding experience that most deck ideas (in general) suck, and one of the most important parts of innovating decks is knowing when to shelve an idea and move on.

  30. @ToddAndersson:
    The version with both comboes was played already at PT Austin, so not sure if GerryT even invented it (maybe he invented it for Austin…). Most pros did not laugh at the version but correctly argued that the deck was worse than straight up Hexmage Depths since it was a lot slower and less focused.

    HOWEVER, the deck is much much more resilient to counter strategies. Most cards that single-handedly destroys one of the combos doesn’t touch the other one. This means that the double combo version is a lot better in a metagame where people are running appropriate amounts of hate for it in the main decks and sideboards.

    This double combo version really doesn’t need a third way to win. The deck is already so filled with combo pieces, tutors and protection that it’s very hard to fit in a third way without compromising the two first ways. Now that people are starting to run Damping Matrix to disrupt both combos, the deck is weakened but it’s still very hard to find room for a third way to win so we might just have to accept that it might not be the best deck any more.

  31. Dern u for beating me to this idea… but at least you weren’t the only one. I’ve been toying with the idea of an extended fae deck with thopter/sword, but never got the guts to pony up the dough for the rest of the deck and anthropomorphically sleeve up my bitterblossoms on MTGO.

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