Constructed Criticism – Bringing Back the Boogeymen: Part I

Thursday, January 6th – They’re back! The boogeymen of Standard’s past have all come back to haunt you. It’s like WotC cast Reanimate on every deck I’ve ever wanted to set on fire. Welcome to my world.

…And now for something different.

They’re back! The boogeymen of Standard’s past have all come back to haunt you, and they’ve got a few new tricks up their sleeve. What could possibly make Jund more of a grinder deck? How about Demigod of Revenge to spice up your life? Never beaten a Bitterblossom in your life? Toss in some Darkslick Shores and Inquisition of Kozilek to brighten your day.

This is the time when all of the old Standard decks you love to hate are brought back to life for just a few months to make your life miserable. Blightning? Die. Bloodbraid Elf? C’mon! Mistbind Clique? Cool card. Go f*** yourself. Oh yeah, don’t forget that Mythic is back. It’s like WotC cast Reanimate on every deck I’ve ever wanted to set on fire. Welcome to my world.

Welcome to hell.

When Constructed Magic is your passion, your forte, and whatever else you want to call it, you have no choice but to grind it out, even in the worst of situations. I think it’s hilarious that Wizards has turned my favorite format, Extended, into an amalgamation of every good Standard deck for the past four years with very little in the way of varying strategies.

With Wargate(!) and Steel Artifact being the outliers in a format full of horrific flashbacks (I’m not going to regale you with tales about Necrotic Ooze being “sweet”), there’s only one problem: both of those decks are just terrible. Prismatic Omen is a cool story, bro. Have a chat with Nature’s Claim. He snuck in, slept with your girlfriend, and gave you an upper deck. Oh, and that card just so happens to break every synergy in the “best” aggressive deck in the format? That’s pretty awkward. What will we do with all these Tempered Steels we bought? Hrm. Set them on fire?

I know. I know. I advocated playing Tempered Steel a few weeks ago. Yeah, I’m taking it back. The deck is just abysmal against anyone with a functioning brain and even against those without brains who just so happen to have removal spells in their deck. Seeing as you have very few relevant cards, you’ll occasionally get murdered by a Day of Judgment, Volcanic Fallout, or even a Maelstrom Pulse. What does that mean for the fans of Tempered Steel? Give up. It’s over.

Wargate, while having a much more “resilient” plan, is just not good enough. Everyone knows it exists; therefore it becomes much harder to fight through the hate. Unlike combo decks of old, this “combo” deck relies too heavily on your opponent having absolutely no disruption. Sun Titan is nice and all, but do you really think you’re going to resolve six-mana threats in a format full of Mana Leak?

Even if you do happen to get your combo online, sometimes your opponent just has an overwhelming board position you can’t quite fight through. If you play against any sort of clock backed by a Disenchant, you’re dead. Don’t even get me started on Tectonic Edge and other forms of land destruction because you’re not going to win.

“Ooze Your Daddy” is such a cool name for a deck, but I really wish it was better. The problem with the deck is two-fold, but we’ll start with
the deck can’t win without Necrotic Ooze in play.

If your opponent counters all of your Necrotic Oozes, or, you know, Thoughtseizes them, what are you going to do? Makeshift Mannequin? That card’s pretty nice and all but really? You can’t find anything better to help your plan along? I know it combos with Fulminator Mage, too, but it just seems so…lazy (for lack of a better word). You should probably just play more discard effects to help protect your combo, if you can call it a combo. Grim Poppet targeting all of your creatures isn’t so much of a combo, as it’s a wrath effect. Those can be fought on a variety of levels.

The second problem is that Conley Woods creates decks for specific tournaments and

for formats or tournaments after the one he’s preparing for and certainly not for people to grind PTQs with. He’s also much, much better than you (and I) at Magic, so he can probably win with his Ham Sandwich deck. You can’t.

Maybe the answer is that people shouldn’t play decks that are hard to pilot. After all, Wizards has slowly begun to eliminate all avenues of creative thought in deckbuilding by cutting the format in half. There’s a reason why everyone is reverting back to familiar decks: we’ve lost the ability to think, to create. We’ve lost the ability to be innovative and fresh. While some strategies seem cool and innovative, they aren’t resilient at all once people figure out their weakness. What are we to do?

Conley Woods is one of the smartest human beings I’ve ever met, and he has balls. He has the fortitude to put his money where his mouth is, tournament after tournament, and he puts up results. Few others in the world are even remotely like him, and I respect him as a deckbuilder above all others. You’d do well to learn from him, but do not, under any circumstances, emulate him.

In a world where we’ve lost the ability to think for ourselves, what can we do to compete? I don’t want to trudge through this Volcanic Fallout-ridden format with an aggro deck. I don’t want to play Reveillark in a world full of Faeries. I also don’t want to play a combo deck that doesn’t kill people on turn 3. So then, what are we to do?

Be the Boogeyman

(Shift into serious mode)

So you’re saying your friends stopped playtesting against you because they hated playing against Faeries? Tell them to go play FNM with their Steel Overseers and stop wasting your time. You’ve got tournaments to win. Traditionally, Faeries is infamous for opening with the most frustrating draws in the post-Affinity era, making it the #1 target for everyone’s hatred. Faeries does something to people that few other decks have ever done; it makes their deck obsolete. I don’t mean that it makes their deck unplayable, but Bitterblossom invalidates so many strategies that it drives people insane. I’ve personally had arguments with multiple friends at FNM over whether or not they should have a “store ban” on Bitterblossom. That conversation didn’t end well, and especially so when I went 5-0 after beating him in the first round.

While Faeries is a strong deck, it does have a few exploitable weaknesses; however the sideboard gives you access to many ways to counteract the hate cards aimed at your dome (specifically Great Sable Stag and Volcanic Fallout). Wall of Tanglecord and Wurmcoil Engine give you new avenues of attack that don’t fall prey to your two worst enemies. For what it’s worth, I’m definitely in favor of playing Preordain to help hit your early Bitterblossoms, as well as digging for your answers/outs in the late game. For one mana, it’s difficult to ask for more out of a card, and its widespread acceptance in blue decks proves this point.

While Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek set you up for some insane openers, finding the right balance between discard effects and business spells is tough. Four discard spells maindeck has been generally accepted as “correct,” but I’ve seen up to six, and I don’t know who’s right. With Preordain in the mix, four will probably be where we stay, since we don’t have room for everything. I’ll say that, in the many formats I’ve played, the discard feels almost as potent as it has ever felt. Thoughtseize shines most in combo-dominated formats, but this one, full of midrange decks, is a close second.

If I were playing Faeries tomorrow, here’s the list I’d be running:

To start, read Sam Black
article on Faeries

this week. He’s been playing the deck for a long time, and he has a lot of intelligent arguments for certain cards, specifically Inquisition of Kozilek in the maindeck over Thoughtseizes (which are boarded to complement the discard suite). The format will continue to push more towards disruptive aggressive decks that don’t fall prey to Volcanic Fallout; specifically Jund, for now, but eventually others will follow suit. Inquisition of Kozilek hits almost every card Thoughtseize hits and will hit more important cards, as the relative curve of the decks in the format trends towards becoming lower and lower. While you don’t get to hit Cryptic Command and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, you do get to save two life, which can mean the game when playing with a card like Bitterblossom. In the matchups where you want to load up on discard, you have the remaining Thoughtseizes in the board.

Glen Elendra Archmage comes in to fight any slow control deck, countering their Cryptic Commands and the like. In conjunction with other counters and discard spells, Glen Elendra Archmage virtually locks out your opponent from interacting with you while you run them over with Faerie tokens. Jace Beleren fits in this same vein, but be careful when playing against opponents with Volcanic Fallout. You don’t want to -1 your Jace only to have your entire board destroyed by a single card. It could be argued that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a better card in this scenario, but you just can’t clog up your deck with four-drops. With Archmage already coming in against these matchups, give yourself a chance to curve out. Jace Beleren gets the nod.

I’ve seen plenty of people begin cutting one Spellstutter Sprite, which caught my attention. Why would they do that? Then, it hit me. Spellstutter Sprite is the worst card in the deck, since it’s virtually a blank unless you have Bitterblossom active, or your opponent is an idiot. Mutavault makes it slightly less embarrassing, and it does help your Mistbind Cliques and Secluded Glens. It does provide you some sweet synergy in the late game, but the rest of your cards are pretty decent on their own. Mistbind Clique suffers the same fate as Spellstutter Sprite, but Mistbind has a much larger effect on the game than Spellstutter Sprite, acting as a virtual 4/4 Flying Time Walk. It also gives you the ability to cut your Bitterblossoms out of the loop once your life total becomes low enough.

I also agree with splitting the removal suite into Agony Warp and Disfigure, helping maintain order in the early goings whilst you set up your lines to victory. These removal spells, above all others, help stave off aggression best in the matchups where you want to draw removal. While all of your other choices are decent (Doom Blade/Smother), none of them are perfect. Having some Doom Blades in the sideboard might be reasonable if you expect random decks containing things like Baneslayer Angel. Smother helps contain manlands and things like Doran but isn’t quite as potent at keeping you alive like Agony Warp. Disfigure costing only a single mana puts it above the curve in relation to the rest (or below the curve, whatever), but I still don’t want to max out on either for fear of drawing the wrong one at the wrong time. Preordain can also help you draw into whatever answer is better in the current situation, so having linear answers is worse than having a variety.

The mana base is a bit different, containing a Tectonic Edge as an additional answer to Valakut and manlands, but it can also wreck 4-Color Control in certain situations, keeping them from having sufficient mana to pay for Mana Leak or keeping them off Wurmcoil Engine and Cruel Ultimatum. With a format full of shaky mana bases, Tectonic Edge is just absurd, and it’s just a shame you can’t fit more into your mana base. The second is in the sideboard and comes in as an additional land, not to replace a land in your deck. Casting Cryptic Command might already be difficult, so you don’t want to make the situation worse.

As you can see, I also added the 26th land, which I figure is a must at this point. You have so much to do with your mana that it seems silly to limit yourself. With Preordain and seven manlands, you shouldn’t ever get truly “flooded.”

Ratchet Bomb is your best bet against mindless aggro decks with small curves but also gives you a way to hammer enchantments. While I don’t know if it’s entirely necessary, I’d prefer to have answers than leave myself vulnerable to something random.

Faeries is such a synergistic powerhouse that people just can’t figure out how to beat it consistently. Even when you think you’re ahead, your opponent just draws two Cryptic Commands and closes the game out with Mistbind Clique and Creeping Tar Pit. Your nut draw becomes crap when they Thoughtseize away your key component. Your insane topdeck gets countered by …Spellstutter Sprite.

When the deck is good, it’s

good. If people figure out that Faeries is the best deck, it might become a liability, since a deck full of hate becomes very difficult to beat, but it’s never impossible. Mono-Red has always been the “dagger” for Faeries, but I just don’t ever see that deck being good when every other deck has access to Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender. When the sweeper of choice in the format is Volcanic Fallout, Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender causes too much splash damage for Mono-Red to be good.

Faeries is notorious for a lot of things, and that’s what makes it such a “boogeyman.” Even when two new blocks were added to the Standard format, it dominated. Until people begin to take this format more seriously, it’ll continue to dominate and without prejudice. The only deck I can foresee taking over as best deck in Standard at the moment is Jund (the

boogeyman), which we’ll discuss next week. Dredging up more stories of “Bloodbraid into Blightning” should be fun.

Thanks for reading.

strong sad on MOL