Tempo is both one of the most important and one of the most misunderstood resources in Magic. For the most part in Magic Theory, it is made equivalent to mana efficiency, which is a reasonable definition of the term, although you do lose some of the subtleties. Today’s Digest doesn’t highlight those missed subtleties, since that would take at least an entire article, but instead highlights how far the facsimile of mana efficiency can be stretched.
For those of you who haven’t been around long enough to remember the scourge of Caw-Blade, imagine the following scenario:
Your opponent spends five mana to activate a creature-land. That seems reasonable. They have a lot of mana; they should be able to leverage it somehow. Now they spend two mana to equip that land with an Equipment. Upon attacking, they suddenly have all their lands untapped and you are down a card. Now they cast a bunch of removal spells and planeswalkers so the game quickly spirals out of control.
Such was the reality of playing against Sword of Feast and Famine. Your opponent was able to make virtually free but profitable attacks every turn and you simply could not keep up.
This deck attempts the same plan, albeit with only a single Sword of Feast and Famine, but Bitterblossom and Spellstutter Sprite operate on the same axis. Both cards trade for resources or give you resources at a very low cost but generate battlefield advantage. They also both provide cheap bodies for your Equipment. Even if your opponent has the removal spell to stop you, your loss is minimal.
Faeries decks in Extended devolved into this kind of plan late in that format’s life, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a deck in Modern. Typical Faeries lists operate on a more traditional tempo axis, but this deck is more trying to generate Time Walks, much like Akira Asahara’s list of Faeries did in Extended many years ago.
Faeries has been disappointing in Modern since the unbanning of Bitterblossom, but perhaps people are just trying to be too fair. After all, Modern is very much about burying your opponent with powerful plays. How about we focus on generating as many Time Walks as possible? I think that’s pretty broken.