Deconstructing Constructed – Beating the Fae

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Monday, May 19th – With so much of the field on Day 2 of the StarCityGames.com $2000 Open tournament being Fae, not to mention the combined wins and Top 8 numbers of the deck, the only reasonable thing to do is focus all efforts in beating it.

With so much of the field on Day 2 of the StarCityGames.com $2000 Open tournament being Fae, not to mention the combined wins and Top 8 numbers of the deck, the only reasonable thing to do is focus all efforts in beating it. First, there are two more obvious answers to the Fae, which I expect will see increased play and overtake the W/G Big Mana decks and other midrange monstrosities rather quickly. B/G Elves and Red Deck Wins both put up some Top 8 finishes at the Opens, and both have a reasonable go at Fae as long as they’ve been constructed properly. However, what about other aggro? Or control? Or even other forms of mid-range, seemingly one of the worst decks to attempt against Fae?

Today we’ll be exploring some of these other options, starting with an old favorite that I’ve seen in a number of Japanese Top 8s, G/R Warrior aggro.

This list is basically an amalgamation of the Japanese G/R Warrior decks I’ve seen, hence you’ll notice the use of cards like Radha and the hilarious one-of Wort, the Raidmother in practically every Red deck they build. The specifics of each build tend to vary little by little; some run enough elves to get Wren’s Run Vanquisher in, others use Llanowar Reborn, and my favorite one ran Intimidator Initiate to go with the many Red spells.

The deck flows together very nicely, with a nice amount of one-drops, two-drops that either increase burn mana or pump future drops, and then Ram-Gang and Boartusk Liege filling out the remainder of the curve. The B/R and G/R Lieges tend to be underrated, considering all the tokens a Rakdos color-combo can make and the number of playable gold creatures in the Gruul case. Thanks to the sheer amount burn in RDW, and even without a maindeck way to handle Bitterblossom, the deck can maul most Fae starts, especially on the play. Many six and seven carders with this deck are like looking at a textbook example of what to do in your first few turns against a Faerie deck. It’s solid aggression backed by burn, or an early Treetop Village forcing Fae to deal, only to be pelted by multiple burn spells.

Sideboard-wise, the deck may need to change cards for the Fae match depending on exactly what becomes the most popular sideboard strategy. Everlasting Torment negates Bottle Gnomes or Dragon’s Claw if it comes to that, and Cloudthresher is useful as a way to keep your goons attacking for damage for another turn in the face of 1/1 chumps. Gleeful Sabotage is one of the bigger beatings I’ve seen, killing Bitterblossom while fighting through counters or taking out Bitterblossom and an artifact to boot. That’s a card that highly interests me now that I’ve tried it, out and I can see why a large number of the Green decks in Japan run them.

For what it’s worth, the deck’s match-up against normal aggressive decks seems to be fair. Often, Liege is one of the deciding factors as it gives your army something that can’t easily be burnt off while pumping up everything else. It actually gives you a reason to avoid throwing men out there to die a terrible death or trade off early in combat, since you have an eventual trump. Even the seemingly random Wort can pull out games, as it turns any burn spell in the late-game into a finisher or double removal spell. I don’t love the game 1 against Elves, as they have Tarmogoyf and Profane Command. However, if they don’t see multiples of those, you can basically just burn off Imperious Perfect and go to town with the early beatdown. Everlasting Torment – or some way to negate Primal Command and Kitchen Finks – is a must, or you’ll simply run out of gas most games to finish the job.

One last note: an oddity in the sideboard was Ember Gale. A large number of Red decks I’ve seen finishing in the Top 8s seem to run these. As far as I can tell, they basically negate all of the defensive measures a U/W Blink or Reveillark deck plays, allowing for unimpeded attack turns. I would also consider Riftsweeper as a viable board option at this point, for Ancestral Visions, but also if the Japanese bring Reveillark decks to the table. Despite the complete absence of the deck here, many of the Top 8s over there involve a good helping of Lark decks.

Other than this version of G/R Aggro, another version has been floating around Magic League. This one features the Red Deck we all know and love combined with a splash of Green for Tarmogoyf and Kavu Predator, along with the green sideboard options. Here’s a sample list:

Certain numbers like 2 Rift Bolt and 3 Flame Javelin just look wrong, but I haven’t had the chance to try the deck as much as I’d like. Essentially, the deck just crushed through a Top 8 full of Fae for many of the same reasons I already mentioned with the R/G Warriors write-up. The deck is very good at starting off with aggressive creatures, throwing down a bit of fat and then backing it with burn. However, there’s a notable difference between this build and the cavalcade of other Mono-Red and R/G decks running around. With the use of Kavu Predator and Grove of the Burnwillows, the deck runs what amounts to 12 huge threats for three mana or less, and that’s not counting Greater Gargadon. In layman’s terms, you outnumber the number of ways Fae has to directly deal with the cards once in play at a 2:1 ratio, and eight of them are cheap enough to slip past any counters on the play.

As far as uniqueness, Kavu Predator itself is a great choice when a decent number of your non-Fae matches will be against Green decks featuring copious amounts of life-gain. Even against Fae, Bottle Gnomes does nothing in the face of Predator except make him stronger and even more of a terror. Martyr of Ashes I feel is greatly underplayed, at least as a board option, considering some of the supposed metagame answers include Merfolk and Elves, both of which curl up into a ball in the face of her. I really like how the deck feels, and it actually seems like a solid base for a Predator deck. Just kick in Fiery Justice along with some White sources and you have the deck in a nutshell.

If we swing back in the other direction, whereas instead of pure aggressiveness we have disruption as well, there are other ways we can help force the Fae match to play out. For example, Rack decks have always posed a threat to Fae, but the rest of the metagame basically beat the deck to snot which removed it from all consideration. Now it may be time for a return of the old discard strategy.

A deck like Fae has always had minimal ways of stopping extreme strategies that occur in the early game. Storm decks fail because they take too long to reach a critical overload of mana and spells to actually beat the Fae deck. This deck, on the other hand, can begin attacking the opponent’s hand starting on turn 1, and deplete Fae resources before it has a chance to make use of them. Riftsweeper is maindecked specifically to help keep Ancestral Visions in check, helping to eliminate one of the few ways they have of trumping a discard heavy approach. You have your own set of Bitterblossom and Pendelhaven to help deal with any token fights, as well as the usual large Green threats. The problem with this deck will always be consistency; keepable hands will generally fall under three ranges. One: Good all-around. Two: Good against Fae. Three: Good against Red decks and other fast aggro.

The problem with the hands against Fae is you want to see very few creatures until you’ve depleted their hand. Optimally you want 3 lands, 2-3 discard spells/effects and a Bitterblossom so you can ravage them early, and sink all your remaining resources into Treetop Villages or topdecked spells instead of trying to play larger guys. Meanwhile, against Red decks you really want to see a Tendrils, Goyfs, and Garruk if possible. Discard can be successfully converted into life by hitting burn spells, sure, but you still really need Tendrils or Goyf to stop the bleeding until post-board.

Of course, the other way to win the Fae mirror is with sick tech; unfortunately I have pretty much zero of that. It used to be you could just run Scryb Ranger out there and have a field day, but Bitterblossom and additional spot removal wrecked a lot of that fun. That said, if you’re willing to go Green and play multiples of Pendelhaven, the card can still pretty much stall a large number of Faeries. The easiest answer if you’re willing to splash seems to be Shadow Guildmage and just accepting the laughter when they Peppersmoke it.

Finally I’ll leave off with one of the more unique Elves decks I’ve seen thus far, from a Japanese Top 8. The basic premise is simply to get Heritage Druid and/or a billion other mana elves in play, resolve Distant Melody and continue to play all of them, eventually killing with Roar of the Crowd. I’ve seen a block build running Lys Alana Huntmaster for additional elf generation, but this is the build I found for Standard. Also I’d highly suggest a few Overrun in the maindeck, along with Lys Alana Bowmaster in the board if you want to run this deck versus Faeries, so you have an alternate beatdown package.

Best of luck to those going to Pro Tour: Hollywood this weekend… I’d already made plans, so unfortunately I won’t be able to attend despite being relatively close. Them’s the breaks.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom