Black Magic – The Faeries Conversation

Friday, February 4 – You can’t stop the Faeries Master from talking about Faeries! Sam Black responds to Ari Lax’s article and makes his counterpoints. How should you play against hateful decks, and how does Go for the Throat change things?

Yesterday, I discovered that our newest writer Ari Lax had written more or less the exact article I was planning to write this week,
but it takes a lot more than that to get me to talk about something other than Faeries during an Extended PTQ season.

I agree with Ari’s overview of the deck, except that I think it’s exactly what Magic is and should be. You can play all kinds of different games with
Faeries, and you have so many options; few other decks incorporate as many of the kinds of decisions made in Magic as Faeries. Combo feels like it’s
not Magic because the interaction is so narrow. Faeries is all interaction—goldfishing it is entirely pointless.

I disagree with a lot of numbers in Ari’s list, but I also disagree with a lot of numbers in the list I played at Grand Prix Atlanta. A lot of things
have changed very quickly since the Grand Prix, and I don’t think Ari does enough to address the shift in the metagame. As with most decks,
particularly control decks, it’s important to keep a Faeries list very fluid. Don’t get stuck in one “correct” build. I try to change at least one card
in my 75 at least every other time I lose a match, just to keep my deck from getting stale.

In Atlanta, I played:

Most recently online, I played:


4 Spellstutter Sprite: Ari only plays three Spellstutter Sprites. As I wrote last week, I think Spellstutter Sprite is far too valuable to the other
cards in the deck to cut one, especially if you’re playing Scion of Oona. Playing one on turn 2 makes turns 3 through 5 a lot better than if you don’t
have a Faerie in play. That said, I’ve found that I have to side out all four Spellstutter Sprites against R/G Valakut, so if you expect that deck to
be particularly dominant, it might be reasonable to move one Sprite to the sideboard as a way to pre-board for them.

4 Bitterblossom: Obv.

4 Mistbind Clique: I’ve played less at some points in some formats, but four isn’t too much mana for this format, and there are a lot of decks that
operate almost entirely at sorcery speed. Mistbind Clique is particularly awesome right now.

4 Cryptic Command: One of the most powerful cards ever and absolutely perfect for this deck. The combination of Mistbind Clique and Cryptic Command
means you can almost always get back into almost any game with the right draws. That said, the card is clunky enough that I’ve seriously considered
cutting one at various points, and it’s a real option to keep in mind in some fields.

2 Peppersmoke: I love this card. It’s probably the most important card against Mythic and very good in a lot of other places. You can almost always
find a way to get value out of it. The current popularity of Valakut decks forces me to minimize my removal, and Peppersmoke is worse in the mirror now
than it once was, as games are often about Creeping Tar Pit, Vampire Nighthawk, and occasionally Sower of Temptation. I have one in the sideboard, but
it’s much better in game one than in games two and three, so I’m not happy with it in the sideboard. I think it needs to be either maindeck or nowhere.

3 Thoughtseize: My number has gone up because of Valakut, but I still hate drawing too many. The mirror match is less about resolving Bitterblossom
than it used to be because of Creeping Tar Pit, and sometimes you just lose because you draw 2-3 of these, and they kill you manlands.

2 Inquisition of Kozilek: Ari might be right to play the last Thoughtseize over the second Inquisition because it’s so important to be able to take
Primeval Titan and Scapeshift, but I like Inquisition much more in the mirror, and I feel much better about my red matchup if I lean this way. I agree
with Ari that I don’t have a great reason for exactly five discard spells, but it’s been playing pretty well that way.

3 Disfigure: Red, Mythic, Fauna Shaman, and the mirror make this card particularly desirable over other removal spells.

1 Doom Blade: I needed to be able to kill Baneslayer Angel and Primeval Titan. I think that until the format shifts to contain more artifact creatures,
the removal debate is basically just a matter of working out the numbers of Go for the Throat, Disfigure, and Peppersmoke, which is very good news for
Tempered Steel, but the card does so much more until the format warps to beat it.

3 Mana Leak: I had only two Mana Leaks, but I had to switch one discard spell for a Mana Leak and then cut a Countersquall in the sideboard for a
removal spell as part of my efforts to improve the Valakut matchup. I completely agree with Ari that drawing two Mana Leaks is usually pretty bad.

2 Vendilion Clique: I agree with Ari’s claim that Scion of Oona is awesome against everyone who doesn’t have Volcanic Fallout, but I think the time
isn’t right for Scion at the moment. Before GP Atlanta, Ben Stark claimed that Faeries was his worst matchup with R/G Valakut. That seemed odd to me
because I knew that R/G Valakut was one of my worst matchups. I think there are a lot of reasons for this. First of all, the matchup is close, which
makes it one of the worst matchups for both sides, since both decks are very good against the field. Second, Ben’s experience was based on decks that
were very prepared—they had a lot of discard, counters, and Vendilions, while I had a lot of removal and Scions for other matchups. Valakut is
big enough that it’s worth becoming the version with which Ben had trouble.

1 Jace Beleren: I agree with Ari that expensive sorceries are really bad in this deck, but he’s also right that every game is extremely close and won
on very narrow margins. Jace is one of the few ways to pull very far ahead, and it lets you play a different kind of game, which some decks can’t deal

3 Tectonic Edge: I’ve gone up to 27 land, adding another Tectonic Edge as a spell because it’s among the best spells in the mirror and
against Valakut, and those are my two main concerns right now. Also, I like fully taking advantage of the ability to play way too many lands without
getting punished because so many of them are spells. So far, I haven’t felt like 27 is too many lands, and the uncounterable removal for manlands is
huge, as is the ability to double Edge people who miss a land drop as soon as they hit four lands.

4 Creeping Tar Pit: Four Creeping Tar Pit. Yes, tapped lands are bad. This card is just incredible. You want to have it every game.

3 Island, 3 Swamp, 2 Sunken Ruins: With so many Tectonic Edges, Sunken Ruins becomes very risky. You lose the benefit of having a more stable mana base
if you have to mulligan more hands because you don’t have colored mana. I’d like to be able to play more Islands to make up for not having Sunken Ruins
when it comes to playing Cryptic Command, but with so many one-mana black cards and with Vampire Nighthawks in the sideboard, you just can’t just cut
the Swamp.

0 Preordain: Obviously I love Preordain, and I played four at Worlds. I cut it after seeing that decks without it were doing much better than decks
with it. Also, every time my opponent played one, I was so relieved. That can’t be a good sign for the card. Playing Preordain decreases the odds of
curving out perfectly with cards that attack the opponent or impact the board. Games are too tempo-oriented, and mana is too valuable to mess around
with this kind of thing, even if it is awesome to draw one on turn 8. There are a lot of cards that I think should rotate into the deck depending on
the metagame, but I don’t think Preordain is a card that will be correct this season.


I’m going to talk about cards in the order Ari talked about them, since I have some thoughts on what he says, and then talk about the other cards:

Sower of Temptation: I wanted a second one of these in the Grand Prix because of how awesome it would’ve been against U/W Control, and having played
against U/W Control with them online and having taken a Glen Elendra Archmage and a Baneslayer Angel in the same game, I can tell you that this card
met my expectations. When this card’s good, it’s a complete all-star, which is what I want a sideboard card to be. It might be right to have more of
these at some point, but Ari’s right that they make the four-slot too crowded, and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. I’m completely torn on this
card in the mirror. Creeping Tar Pit makes it much easier to resolve than it used to be, and it can be a total blowout. I think it’s right against some
people and not against others, depending on lists and play styles, and it’s really hard to figure out when you want it.

Wurmcoil Engine: Ari claims they don’t have a good answer to this card, and that’s often true, but Deglamer has been getting more popular. He also
claims the matchup against Jund is easy, and I think I largely agree. With the addition of Spreading Seas to my sideboard, I just don’t think this card
is necessary anymore. You can win without it, and it doesn’t come in in enough matchups, and it’s too expensive against red. One is fine if you expect
a lot of Jund, but you can get by without it if you know the matchup.

Wall of Tanglecord: This card is huge against Red, but as long as there’s a reasonable likelihood that they’ll bring in Smash to Smithereens, I just
don’t want to go there. Once red players have had a few weeks to draw dead Smash to Smithereens, maybe it will be time to bring them back.

Removal: As I said, I don’t like Peppersmoke game two as much as I like it game one in the mirror, so I think the sideboard removal should be enough
Disfigures to go up to four and then maybe an additional Go for the Throat or two.

Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge: I’m not sure if Spreading Seas is good or bad in the mirror yet. So far, I’ve been pretty happy when I’ve cast it,
but space is really tight. I like Spreading Seas as an answer to Valakut and a good card for value against Jund, but I don’t think you want too many
because it doesn’t address most of what matters in the Valakut matchups. It might be too low impact in general for the sideboard, especially now that I
have so many Edges main.

Consign to Dream: This card seems too cute and narrow to me, and I’ve found that the Wargate matchup is very good. It’s R/G Valakut that I’m worried

Additional discard: I completely agree with Ari that it’s easy to have too much discard, and I don’t want more than one extra dedicated discard spell
in the board, which I’m cheating on right now with an extra Vendilion Clique.

Vampire Nighthawk: I didn’t feel great about this card in the Grand Prix, but I’ve kind of been warming up to it as I find random places to get
unexpected value out of it. The three toughness is really good against Volcanic Fallout, and it’s been kind of a pain to deal with in the mirror.

Countersquall: I really want to have a hard counter against Scapeshift. This card might be there more to make me feel safe than because it’s actually

Glen Elendra Archmage: I don’t know why more people don’t play this card. It’s always been awesome against the spell-based decks, and it’s also been
performing well above expectation against Jund.

I agree with Ari’s take on Mirrodin Besieged. Not much changes; Go for the Throat is an upgrade. Crusader is an interesting card to keep in mind. I
can’t imagine wanting to play Vatmother. Contested War Zone is pretty cute against non-creature decks, but I’d be afraid of getting Stagged.

Ari offers the following General Tips:

“-You can cast your cards at any time. Mistbind Clique is not restricted to their draw step, and Vendilion Clique is not restricted
to their draw step. If taking a hit from their random guy and killing it at end of turn means you have counter mana up for their actual threat in their
second main phase, it’s considerable.

-Actually stop and think. At most points, you have near-perfect information. Do math on how many turns it takes to kill them and whether a manland
attack accelerates this or whether you should leave back blockers when the damage is irrelevant. Decide on your turn when you want to cast a Clique, so
that you don’t let them know you have it.

-Remember to sequence your lands properly. There really isn’t much to say here, but it’s an easy way to lose games.

Cryptic Command can bounce your own cards that aren’t Bitterblossom. The most common scenarios for this are when you have Mistbind championing
Mistbind to lock them for four turns straight and when you need an answer and have Spellstutter or Vendilion available. Just be aware that it can then
be countered by a removal spell.

-When revealing to Secluded Glen, you generally don’t want to show them Mistbind Clique or Spellstutter Sprite unless you have
to. Revealing Scion is fine unless you’re trying to set up the blowout in combat. Vendilion Clique is even better, as usually their playing
around it involves them casting their big threat immediately, and if that’s a concern, you were going to draw step Clique anyway.

-For those who’ve played Faeries before, the first thing to realize is that you want to play much more aggressively than you did in the past.
All of the other decks have better card advantage engines or are one-card kills.

-Most generic creatures you can just power through. Between Bitterblossom chumps, Cryptic Command taps, and having a life total,
you can just manage them with excess resources.

-Don’t panic. Again, you have more options than any other deck. If you feel like you could be falling behind, just slow down and figure out which ones
get you back in. Even when you know you’re dead, they might not know. People are afraid of the cards you have, and oftentimes, just acting like you
have everything will get you out of unwinnable scenarios. I’ve won more than my fair share of games because my opponent didn’t pump Leech to play
around Disfigure at the wrong time or saw my untapped mana and didn’t go for their Prismatic Omen or Scapeshift.”

As for when to cast Cliques, I think the time people get wrong most is not playing them on their own main phase when they’re supposed to. There are a
lot of times when you just want to be sure they’ll resolve, or, often with a Vendilion Clique, when you don’t want to give them a chance to cast
something in response. Yes, one strength of Faeries is that you can always be untapped on your opponent’s turn, but that doesn’t mean you always have
to be.

Ari makes excellent points about figuring out exactly how quickly you can kill your opponent. Surprisingly often, you’ll realize that if you tap out to
animate a Creeping Tar Pit and attack with that and a Mistbind Clique, they’re just dead in two turns, and you can ignore whatever they cast while
you’re tapped out. Also, thinking a few steps ahead, especially if you can pause to think ahead of time when your opponent will assume you’re thinking
about something else, can be huge. Feel free to ask your opponent to wait on their draw step when you’re trying to trap them with a Mistbind so they
think you have a Vendilion, but be careful because they might actually put you on Mistbind as the reason you chose not to cast the Vendilion you were
thinking about (but didn’t actually have), and don’t get obnoxious with it; it’s just not worth it.

Playing lands in the right order is actually huge with this deck. I remember being disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion of which lands to
play in Brad’s video on Faeries. Ari makes it sound like a simple exercise in not screwing up by mindlessly playing the wrong land, but there’s
actually a lot of thought and planning that goes into playing the right land. You have to figure out when you need your manlands to lose summoning
sickness, when you need to be able to represent Cryptic Command, what information you want to give them, and how valuable it is, particularly letting
them know you have a Tectonic Edge or showing them a Faerie you might not want to show them. I prefer revealing a Mistbind Clique to a Scion of Oona
most of the time, since they often can’t do anything about Mistbind Clique, and I often like to play Scion of Oona as a trick, but it really depends on
the matchup. I also think people are somewhat likely to forget about a Mistbind Clique you show them on turn 1, or they expect me to cast it at several
points when I don’t actually plan to do so.

I agree with Ari that you have to play more aggressively now than in past formats, and I think it’s even truer in the mirror.


This is where I think things will get interesting, as there are several different plans that can work in any given matchup, and I have some different
approaches than Ari.

: Ari likes discard here to protect your Mistbind Clique and disrupt their curve. I think they have a very redundant curve, and they can usually only
play one spell per turn, and most of the time, they can’t do anything about a Mistbind Clique whether you Thoughtseize them or not. I prefer to cut all
of my discard and focus on tempo and clogging their hand. The fact that I have access to two Jaces helps with this a lot, and Glen Elendra Archmage
makes Mistbind Clique more reliable. Also, I have to play more of a tempo game because I don’t have Wurmcoil Engine as a finisher, and I have Spreading
Seas and a lot of Edges to slow them down. Ari is using his artifacts to try to play a control game. Both approaches are effective, and both can beat
Jund. The reason I prefer my plan is that it uses more versatile sideboard slots to handle the same matchup.

I side out five discard spells, two Vendilion Cliques, and two Peppersmokes for two Glen Elendra Archmages, two Spreading Seas, two Vampire Nighthawks,
one Jace Beleren, one Disfigure, and one removal spell. Again, the emphasis here should be on having a plan, not on the exact details. I don’t like
Mana Leak against them, but at least they have to spend mana on a spell then.

Prismatic Omen
: I agree entirely with Ari on this matchup, with the note that Spellstutter Sprite is good here because of their Preordain effects, while it’s bad
against R/G Valakut.

U/W Control
: Kitchen Finks can be annoying, but they’re basically just a distraction, as the only real way this deck is winning is by resolving a Titan or Angel.
Do everything you can to not give them a window to do that. I bring in Sowers and Archmages. It’s rough on the curve, but they can’t really beat either
one. If you have cards you want after cutting removal, look to cut Mistbind Clique, which is smaller than their guys are and hard to stick because of
Path to Exile and counters.

Five-Color Control:
I knew the world looked different after GP Atlanta when my first Five-Color opponent played two Stags in game one and Volcanic Fallout, Plumeveil, and
Anathemancer in game two. The only real place where I disagree with Ari is the weight he puts on Bitterblossom. I’ll play one into a Mana Leak on turn
2 and see if it sticks because I actually don’t think it’s that important in the matchup. Their plan is often to kill you with Fallouts and your own
Bitterblossom, and you can often beat them with Jaces, Cliques, and Archmages without giving them that line. Bitterblossom is good, but it’s not your
only plan.

G/W Trap
: Ari’s spot on here.

: Removal is gold; Vampire Nighthawk and Sower of Temptation are excellent because they don’t have many ways to answer them. I’m less impressed by Mana
Leak and discard here than Ari is because it’s easy to fall behind if that’s your plan, especially if you have enough Go for the Throats to deal with
their Sovereigns, but really, it’s hard for them to get to six mana when you’re killing all their little creatures.

 Again, everything Ari says is true. Managing the board is important; closing is important, and how you play changes a lot depending on how they
play and your life total.

: I mostly agree with Ari, but again, I think single-minded focus on Bitterblossom is outdated, which I guess is to say that I consider Creeping Tar
Pit an answer to Bitterblossom when deciding which hands to keep. I sideboard differently from Ari. The first thing I do is cut all the
Mistbind Cliques. In general, I want my curve to be as low as I can realistically get it. I cut Vendilion Clique, and I like Disfigure more than Go for
the Throat. I want to spend most of my mana attacking with lands, and the more spells I can cast with one or two spare mana, the better. So often, the
mirror is all about tempo.

Tempered Steel
: This deck has lost some popularity, but I expect it to see more play after Mirrodin Besieged comes out. Go for the Throat makes other decks much
worse against it, and I think Tezzeret over Ranger of Eos might be a big upgrade for the deck. The matchup is hard. Sower of Temptation is good;
Consume the Meek is better, but you don’t want it and Vampire Nighthawk. If you can keep them off of their big cards like Master of Etherium and
Tempered Steel, the rest of their deck doesn’t really do anything, but those cards are hard to beat.

Aside from Tempered Steel, Mirrodin Besieged basically has to be good for Faeries initially, as Go for the Throat is a huge upgrade, and you should be
a huge favorite against people who try to build new decks with the new cards, as Faeries really punishes decks that aren’t finely tuned.

The format is extremely hostile to Faeries, but all the hate is always beatable if you know what to expect and how to play against it. However, if you
don’t have time to learn exactly how to beat each deck individually, I’d really recommend playing something else rather than trying to pick up Faeries
on the fly.

Thanks for reading,