Black Magic – Faeries in Extended

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Tuesday, April 6th – Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… Sam Black, a proponent of Faeries in Standard for a very long time, has finally found an Extended Fae list he believes is a Tier 1 contender in the format. With a handful of PTQs left, is this strategy the key to obtaining a coveted Blue Envelope?

I still haven’t had a chance to really sit down and play long, broad testing sessions for Extended, where I play all kinds of decks against each other. I’ve just played Faeries because I like the way it looks against the field, and I know and like the deck. I haven’t even done dedicated testing sessions with Faeries against most of the field. I just play the deck in tournaments, and maybe a little before an event, or rarely on MTGO. As a result, I haven’t felt like an authority on Extended, so I’ve been leaving that to people who are really working on the format. After my third Extended Grand Prix with Faeries, I feel qualified to say more about the deck than just, “I’m playing Faeries because I don’t know anything else.”

The deck I played in Houston was awesome. I’m extremely happy with where I’ve taken the list, and I felt like I could beat anyone, and would expect to beat a vast majority of the decks I saw. I really feel like the event was mine to win, but I played badly in two matches, throwing away three games I think I could have won. Outside of those two matches, I lost three total games. In twelve rounds of play, I felt like I played exactly four games I couldn’t have won. Clearly, I got very lucky in some other games, just as I got unlucky in some of those games, but there were a lot of decks I’d just never expect to lose to.

Faeries is an absurdly powerful deck. I don’t know if everyone’s forgotten about them in Standard, or if they just still hate the deck because it was too dominant, or if they think it looks too much like a Standard deck to actually be good in Extended, but playing a deck that warped a metagame as much as Faeries did in a field that’s not preparing for it just feels completely unfair. Faeries currently occupies an appallingly low percentage of the metagame, considering its strength.

Since I’m no longer discussing Faeries as a pet deck, and simply showing you the spells I wanted to be casting, and I am instead seriously recommending Faeries as a deck for anyone who thinks they may feel comfortable playing it, let me take some time to actually discuss my list and card choices.

I played:

All the cards that there are four-of, I think four copies is fairly obvious and almost certainly current. In a different metagame, four Smother might not be necessary, but Zoo is a deck you have to respect, and Dark Confidant needs to die. There are some who like playing only three Ancestral Vision. I’m not one of those people. After sideboarding against most people I want to win an attrition war, and Ancestral Vision does that very well. I also want to have it on turn 1 as often as possible. Basically, I just think the card is excellent.

The cards there are only three of: Thoughtseize, Cryptic Command, Vendilion Clique, and Mistbind Clique. I feel like four Thoughtseize is too likely to result in having too many in one game, such that the life loss becomes a serious problem. Also, against a lot of decks, one is the exact number you want to cast during a game. Also, with Vision and Spell Snare if you’re on the draw, the deck doesn’t really need another turn 1 play.

Vendilion Clique and Cryptic Commands are the first cards I side out against Zoo, as they’re just too much mana for their effect in that matchup, and I don’t feel that I can afford to have the 4th of either main if I want my Zoo matchup to be as good as I can realistically make it. These cards are awesome against control and combo decks, and extremely important to being able to beat decks like Scapeshift, so I want as many as I can play without sacrificing too much in the aggro matches. The number that is most likely to change here is the third Cryptic Command, which I see as a possible card to cut if you’re trying to make room for something else or shifting to prepare for a slightly different field.

Mistbind Clique is an interesting card. It’s often the default card to side out, being a little slow for a lot of decks in the format, and not a card I really want if my opponent has a lot of instants. However, in game one, I think it’s just something you need to be able to do. You need to be able to champion your own Bitterblossom and you need to be able to put people on a clock. Sometimes you just need a creature with a reasonable body. I’d probably rather play 2 than 4, but this deck is about taking advantage of the tribal synergies that have always made Faeries good, and Mistbind Clique is an important part of going all in on that plan.

The twos: Mana Leak, Umezawa’s Jitte, Spell Snare, and Jace Beleren: It was refreshing to realize that Mana Leak was not an automatic four-of when Luis commented on how bad the card is in the format. Aggro decks put out enough pressure quickly enough that this card is slower than you want, and it has an extremely awkward interaction with Scapeshift costing four and requiring seven lands that prevents what would otherwise be one of its best applications. People often have three mana. That said, I really want a hard counter. I want to be able to stop Blood Moon, Jace Beleren, and Night of Souls’ Betrayal, among countless other problem cards. One of the things I dislike most about Dark Depths is its inability to stop artifacts and enchantments. I don’t want a lot of Mana Leaks, and I don’t want them a lot of the time, but the card lets you deal with some things you really have to deal with.

Umezawa’s Jitte was a popular three-of in Faeries, but I don’t like the card very much. It’s powerful, it wins games basically by itself, including games nothing else would win, and it gives the deck a way to gain life, which it desperately wanted, but it’s very slow. It’s another card that’s just terrible in many matches, and a lot of the matches where it’s good, you don’t want it until extremely late in the game, which you’re in control enough that you can afford to tap four mana, have them kill your guy, and not really be any worse off. Plus, minimizing the impact of the legend rules is pretty nice. I’ve been extremely happy with playing exactly two of these.

Spell Snare is amazing in some matches, most notably Thopter/Depths, but it’s also blank in some matches, most notably Hypergenesis. There are other matches where it’s very good, but you’ll probably lose if you draw more than they draw twos, and they don’t have THAT many twos, like Zoo. I could see playing 0-3 of these, but the third one would require some pretty specific metagame knowledge for me to want to play it. It should be noted that this card is good in most of the same matches as Repeal, a card I’m not playing, but consider reasonable. I would want to avoid having too many of both combined, or I would start to lose too many games to Hypergenesis and Scapeshift, which I’m counting on beating. On the other hand, playing a lot of both would be awesome against Dark Depths.

Jace Beleren: Playing this card in Faeries in Standard has made it my favorite Magic card. I thought it might not be good enough for Extended, but I’ve been happy with it. Jace, the Mind Sculptor costs too much mana for a sorcery for this deck, but three is completely acceptable. The card is different than it was in Standard in that I start by using -1 a lot more, since most decks are either so dedicated to attacking your life total that they won’t attack a Jace that’s at 2 or they’re so bad at attacking that they just can’t do anything about it regardless, but either way, if I can play a Jace and use the -1 without it dying, I’m very happy. Sure, the abilities on Jace, the Mind Sculptor look more than one mana better, but, really, if either one stays in play, it’s generally good enough, so paying an extra mana is unnecessary. This card is mostly there because you want it post sideboard against almost everyone, and it’s “good enough” game one that you can save sideboard slots by playing it main.

Pendelhaven: People often seem surprised when they see this, which isn’t that weird I guess, since it hasn’t been played enough lately, but I think that’s a holdover from Riptide Laboratory occupying the extra colorless land slots you could afford in Extended decks with Faeries. Pendelhaven was so good in Standard that Faeries sometimes played two, and it’s no less amazing in Extended. This card makes the deck so much better. It’s huge almost every time you draw it. Two is better than zero, but one is right.


4 Deathmark: This is the best card against Zoo, and you need it. Zoo is a huge percentage of the field, and has been the main reason not to play Faeries, but I think I’m finally at the point where I don’t feel that bad playing against Zoo.

2 Slay: Yeah, it takes some work to beat Zoo. This is basically Deathmark 5 and 6, except that once you have 4 Deathmark and 2 Smother, this card might actually be better since you can buy time/lower your curve with them, and then use this to actually get ahead, since post sideboard is all about trading and occasionally going two-for-one or getting further ahead with Jace or Ancestral Vision. This card is clearly also awesome against Bant and Elves. It’s better than Damnation because you’re overloading so much on spot removal that it’s very hard to kill more than one or two creatures with Damnation, and this is just a much better value. Instant speed is huge. Damnation is better against Hypergenesis, but you don’t need it, and it’s better against Affinity or Goblins, or other non-Green creature decks, but really, no one plays those.

1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Once your answers get better, you can afford a more expensive Jace, and this one is pretty ridiculous. This is the last important piece of the Zoo plan (though Flashfreeze, below, can optionally come in as well).

4 Leyline of the Void: I didn’t play against Dredge this time around, but it’s best to be prepared. Dredge by itself might not justify so many slots in the board, but it’s also an easy answer to the Thopter Foundry combo, which is otherwise a potential soft point.

1 Extirpate: Generally Leyline number 5, but a bit better in some cases, like against Hypergenesis, where it wins the game if you counter one Hypergenesis.

1 Thoughtseize: Extra combo hate. Better than Vendilion Clique because you often can’t afford to play Vendilion Clique against cascade decks for fear of Violent Outburst.

2 Flashfreeze: While you can bring this card in against Zoo, it falls under the category of “bad one for ones” with all the other counters and Thoughtseize, where I want any 6 pieces in after sideboard against Zoo. (There are 7 maindeck, and the sideboard plan is to cut all the Cryptics and Vendilion Cliques and then one bad one for one, like Thoughtseize, and then you can use these to tune which exact counters you want based on their build and who’s on the play.) This card is actually here to bring in against Burn, All in Red, Hypergenesis, and Scapeshift.

Dark Confidant is probably the card that I haven’t played that most people suggest, and it’s not right for this deck. You have enough card advantage, and the life loss is too big of a problem. Smother only kills a card you’ve already gotten value out of if you don’t play this. It’s not good against Zoo or combo. There’s just no way I’d want this guy in this deck.

Dark Confidant needs Chrome Mox to be truly unfair, and Chrome Mox is not a card I like, and playing multiples leads to really bad draws. This deck has enough one-drops that you don’t need to accelerate past one mana on turn 1. Chrome Mox is only good with Thirst, Thirst needs more artifacts. This sends you down the Thopter road, but once you’ve gone that far, I don’t know why you’re playing a partial Faerie package rather than making a 20/20. But then you’ve gotten into a different deck, and one that I feel gives up too much consistency for its explosiveness.

So, that’s the deck. I’d love to give you some quick matchup percentages, but I just don’t have them. All I know is that of the archetypes that are more than 4% of the field in this GP, I feel very good playing against Bant, Scapeshift, and Hypergenesis, slightly favored against Thopter/Depths, Living End, and maybe Dredge, pretty even or maybe very slightly behind against Zoo, and notably behind against Boros (but still winnable).

I could write another tournament report here, but really, I think you’d prefer a sideboarding guide, and I did just make a list of decks to be prepared for, so let’s do that instead:

Zoo I’ve explained above, but I’ll add that you want more Thoughtseizes on the play, and more Spell Snares on the draw.

Thopter/Depths: -2 Umezawa’s Jitte, -3 Mistbind Clique, -1 Ancestral Vision, –Vendilion Clique, +4 Leyline of the Void, +1 Extirpate, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I don’t love cutting Vendilion Clique here, but I’m not really sure what else you can cut. You’re the control deck here, since you can blank most of their plans, and then expect them to drown in their legends. You have Leyline/Extirpate for their Thopters, Bitterblossom/Cryptic for their 20/20s, Smothers for their Dark Confidants, and Belerens for their Mind Sculptors, with Thoughtseizes and counters to stop them from putting any of those things together. Ancestral Vision comes out because so much of the game is about the first 3 turns, but I don’t really want to cut all of them because it’s such a powerful card once you’ve lived through the opening. Vendilion, I think, is just more aggressive than you need to be. I want it in, but I don’t know what else to cut.

Scapeshift: -4 Smother, -1 Umezawa’s Jitte, +1 Thoughtseize, +2 Flashfreeze, +1 Extirpate, +1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Remember that they have Boseiju and Gigadrowse, so you can’t just plan to counter their Scapeshift; you have to attack their hand, sometimes counter their mana development, and put pressure on them.

Living End: -4 Smother, -2 Spell Snare, -1 Umezawa’s Jitte, +4 Leyline of the Void, +1 Extirpate, +1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, +1 Thoughtseize. Like Hypergenesis, but with a better backup plan against your Spellstutter Sprites. Watch out for Night of Souls’ Betrayal.

Bant: -3 Thoughtseize, -3 Mistbind Clique, -1 Vendilion Clique, +4 Deathmark, +2 Slay, +1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Like Zoo, except they don’t put you on enough of a clock to ever really win.

Dredge: -3 Mistbind Clique, -3 Vendilion Clique, +4 Leyline of the Void, +1 Extirpate, +1 Thoughtseize

Hypergenesis: -4 Smother, -2 Spell Snare, +2 Flashfreeze, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Extirpate, +1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, +1 Deathmark. Deathmark’s pretty bad, but the other cards are blank and it kills Angel of Despair and Crovax, unlike Slay.

Boros: -2 Bitterblossom, -2 Mistbind Clique, +2 Deathmark, +2 Flashfreeze. This one’s rough.

I hope that helps. I really think this is a Tier 1 deck in Extended. Try it.

Thanks for reading…