Deconstructing Constructed – Faeries Versus Control

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Hello and welcome to another article about those lovable Blue miscreants, the Faerie tribe. Today I’ll be going over the general matches, tips, and some testing results against the top three control decks from GP: Krakow: Mono Blue Guile, UW Pickles and UB Mannequin. I’ve received a number of e-mails asking for match advice, and some general questions on how the deck holds up against Pickles-esque decks, so instead of answering each individually it seemed easier to do it all at once.

Hello and welcome to another article about those lovable Blue miscreants, the Faerie tribe. Today I’ll be going over the general matches, tips, and some testing results against the top three control decks from GP: Krakow: Mono Blue Guile, UW Pickles and UB Mannequin. I’ve received a number of e-mails asking for match advice, and some general questions on how the deck holds up against Pickles-esque decks, so instead of answering each individually it seemed easier to do it all at once.

First off, let me go over the changes I’ve recently made to the Faeries deck since its States incarnation. For the most part the deck held up very well, and I have only a few switches to the maindeck, but I think the deck is better off for them.

The differences in the maindeck are quite small. Basically, the two Cloud Sprite were found to unworthy of the slots, despite the extra synergy and one-drop usefulness they bring to the table. With the increase of larger creature decks, it made more sense to add the Sower of Temptations to the maindeck, despite some vulnerability. The other switch I made was swapping an Island for the 4th Faerie Conclave. I find having a Conclave as a one drop to be fine in most matches, and having the full set increases your odds of seeing one in the Conclave matches where they can become real blessings in the face of Wrath effects.

The sideboard has changed to meet the changing needs of the deck in the metagame. The Terrors replace Deathmark for utility purposes, and the ability to kill the various Pickles creatures, Greater Gargadon, and other Red creatures of all sizes, and even something like Guile. Pithing Needle has become a necessity, seeing as Desert will enjoy a nice rise in popularity and Planeswalkers are all over the place… if not necessarily in the best decks, then in all the lower tier ones. It even has a secondary use in shutting off Treetop Village, which is one of the most annoying weapons R/G decks have against you.

As for the rest, the remaining slots are rather self-explanatory and as always I suggest you take note of slots like Flashfreeze and Wydwen for adaptations towards local metagame trends. Not to mention that the old board plan utilizing Damnation is still valid if you expect a high amount of midrange and slower aggro decks, like those that seemed popular at the GP — they may spread over onto MTGO.

Now for the meat of the article: the matches against the GP: Krakow control decks. For time purposes I simply ran ten game 1s to get a general overview of how each control deck would handle Faeries so we can basically have an informed idea* on how big of an impact the board will have.

* As much as I’d love to test 10-10 or 15-15, time is a factor here.

Games are all alternating play, and both of us knew each other’s deck list. Unfortunately this does give a slight edge towards me because I don’t have to judge risky courses of action against various Blue decks. I can basically narrow down the best options against each Blue deck’s specific opening instead of having to worry about certain cards in each deck. For example, if Cheon’s deck ran Desert, the results probably would have been much different versus how his deck is configured at present.

With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin!

Faeries versus Guile

G1: Faeries on play: I start off with an early Oona’s Prowler and Nightshade Stinger which are forced to sit back due to Desert. Eventually I use Clique and multiple Pestermite to draw out the relevant counters or simply tap Desert, allowing 4-6 a turn from the flying army. Guile is never really in the game once it falls to 8 due to the number of creatures attacking and constantly having to use Cryptic Command and Pact of Negation to stop my spells, leaving no mana open to lay men with which to race.

G2: Faeries gets off an early Prowler + Stinger and waits until a Venser tries to bounce Prowler. Scion hits and Guile has no outs.

G3: Faeries gets stuck on two land and never sees one for seven turns. Everything is countered and Teferi trumps a 1/1 flyer.

G4: Guile mulls to six and subsequently gets stuck on two lands. Despite Faeries only offense being a Stinger, it eventually forces through Scion and Clique through Remove Souls for the win.

G5: Faeries wins in a blowout thanks to mana flood.

G6: What do you mean you’ve got TWO Desert? I simply can’t trump them with Pestermite and Cryptic Command, while my creature count is kept low overall by counters. A resolved Guile and Pact of Negation later, and the game ends in a scant three attacks.

G7: Desert holds off the team early, but I have a plan and slowly build up the board with Stinger and Sprite (Countering an Ancestral Vision). I set-up a forced-through Clique to shut off the Guile defenses and Faeries untaps, drops Scion, activate Conclave, and gets in for 12. Since Guile doesn’t run any sweeper effects, the game is over a turn later via alpha strike.

G8: Unfortunately my notes are blank on this one past “I ended up having to race Guile and I won thanks to a last second Psionic Blast.”

G9: Guile is mana screwed. So despite a Faeries mull to five, it loses quickly.

G10: Stinger + Prowler aren’t met with a Desert. GG.

The record of a 10-game set was 8-2 Faeries

Observations and Thoughts

In large part, Wafo-Tapa’s deck gets completely rolled unless the deck lays an early Desert. This shouldn’t come as too big a surprise to anyone, as this is classic aggro-control versus draw-go control, and I have a huge edge due to my early drops and ability to play at instant speed. Counters lose a lot of meaning when I can determine when they have to be cast and my test spells are Time Walk (See Mistbind Clique and even Pestermite).

The keys to the match are as follows:

Play as many creatures out as quickly as possible, as there’s no practical removal to worry about, so you simply want as many creatures out as you can get. Eventually you’ll either start trading creatures for damage or you’ll find a way to trump Desert.

Save cards like Pestermite and Cryptic Command to deal with Desert, unless casting them ASAP will end the game. Too many people waste Pestermite or Clique early on just to force through some damage. Save it for a massive life swing, or when forced to race when Guile finally hits the stack.

If they don’t have a Desert, the first unanswered beater will usually go all the way thanks to the amount of counters you run. It isn’t difficult to hold a board advantage if that becomes your focus. You may not run the sheer number of counters, but controlling the time of the fight can be a huge win for you.

The few post-board games I played were much the same as the normal game 1s. If they don’t get Desert early, all you have to do is worry about Razormane Masticore coming down and screwing things up. However, you get Needle now, so without the early trump of Desert, it’s quite possible you win before Masticore is even a factor.

Anyway, Spellstutter Sprite typically leaves for Pithing Needle, and then it’s up to you if you want to bring in anymore Sower to trump Masticore.

Faeries versus UW Pickles

G1: UW Pickles on the play: Despite an early Wrath picking off Prowler and Stinger, two Faerie Conclave slowly ping away at Pickles life total. Eventually I force the Pickles player to use Shapeshifter to trade, but a Scion defeats that. Both decks drew a heavy dose of land, but the Conclave were paramount to winning here.

G2: Once again, two Conclave end up doing Pickles in after a Wrath and Oblivion Ring destroy all the normal Faeries I had available.

G3: A Cryptic Command demolishes the Pickles platform. Stinger and Conclave beats basically force action, and I set up a Cryptic Command on Teferi to counter it and bounce a storage land to build enough time to win.

G4: Despite a slow start on the draw, Stinger and Scion of Oona go to work chipping away on the Pickles player while I counter removal spells. I seemingly blow out the Pickles player once again with a Cryptic Command counter on Venser plus bounce on a storage land. Instead he uses the opportunity to sneak down a Brine Elemental, which flips a turn before I’d kill him. So despite only needing two damage to win, I’m found wanting and die.

G5: Pickles gets mana flooded, seeing eleven lands in the first seven turns. Faeries crushes face.

G6: After an early Wrath of God and Oblivion Ring seemingly stall me out, I finally get to use a Sower of Temptation to steal myself a morph (Brine Elemental) and simply keep Pickles from pulling the lock by never unmorphing it.

G7 through 10: In large part nothing interesting happens. Faeries typically crushes Pickles unless it gets a very fast combo start or has multiple tools to drag the game out. For example, I lost game 8 when I had no Psionic Blast to kill an early Brine morph. Shapeshifter than locked me. Barring any early morph shenanigans, Pickles couldn’t keep up in the race for the most part.

8-2 Faeries

Observations and Thoughts

This surprised me, but the games in large part weren’t close. In fact I was having more issues with Pickles only splashing for Oblivion Ring and not Wrath, specifically because it still ran Desert in the maindeck. Without the single early out, the Pickles player has practically no good way to trump your early creatures. They can’t resolve Wrath early if you have Cryptic Command or Rune Snag, and even if they resolve it, that means you have at least two to three turns of free reign before getting locked. Using Faerie Conclave and Psionic Blast it’s very possible to end the game before it matters.

The typical ways you’ll win this match are:

You get a Stinger — Prowler start with any counter back-up. The game is practically over no matter what hand the Pickles player has, because the only way they trump you is Oblivion Ring or Shapeshifter Morph — Wrath of God to clean the board By that point odds are good the Pickles player will have taken two to three attacks worth of damage, lowering them to single digits. At this point any follow up creatures are usually lethal, due to the mana intensiveness of the lock.

Playing Faeries at instant speed to dodge traps and getting 5-7 damage through uninterrupted thanks to your end-of-turn creatures. To top it off you can threaten Clique on upkeep to force Cryptic Command to be held back for a turn or more than they’d like. If they Fog you anyway, and you do have Clique, you Time Walk and have a much bigger creature in play than before; leaving you in a very good position.

Post-board play is far more difficult than the previous deck though, thanks to Aven Riftwatcher. This single card not only increases the life increments you need your attacks to deal, but slows the actual offense down as well. Unlike other successful aggro decks, there isn’t a good way to punch through Riftwatcher using brute force. Bounce is also less effective than usual, thanks to its leaving-play ability causing them to simply gain more life. At best you need to trade one-for-one and deal another four damage. At worst you lose a creature to it and the life-swing becomes closer to eight or so.

So although you can still win early via a curve out, it happens less even via Terror. As a result I don’t have any specific sideboard advice to give and am open to suggestions.

Faeries versus UB Mannequin

G1: Manni on the play: I lay a turn 2 Prowler, which trumps both Ironfoot and Epochrasite. Unfortunately it also enables early Mannequin tricks with Mulldrifer while not letting me do a whole lot about it. Not only do I lose some early damage, but it forces me to Cryptic Command the annoying flying blocker and messes with the damage race a bit. Despite this, using multiple Scion to race is still effective as the Ruel deck has few ways to actually find Damnation and ruin me.

Finally after countering Grim Harvest, despite Shriekmaw blowing up all my non-Oona creatures, I’ve cleared the way for Oona and Conclaves to win the game.

G2: Once again Oona’s Prowler comes down early and essentially I ignore Shadowmage and double Epochrasite, beating in the sky with Oona + Scion. Unfortunately a Damnation cleans the board and puts me on a clock… still, my creatures fly and I have plenty to make up for my lack of counters. Stinger and Spellstutter Sprite make up for my lack of offense, and a Sower steals one of the returning Epochrasite. Ahead on the race, it’d take a Shriekmaw to turn the tide. Mannequin can’t rip it and an attack + Psionic Blast later, the game is over.

G3: Faeries never makes it off two mana and dies.

G4: No early beatings means the card advantage machine of Shadowmage comes online, and I’m quickly demolished by Shriekmaw + Cloudskate wiping out my slower forces such as Clique, Sower, and Pestermite. My remaining Conclaves are no match for the fear strikers, and I lose shortly after.

G5: Faeries sees three land and three Psionic Blast. No counters means this is a practical game win, even if only a Stinger and Conclave deal any damage for the first five turns. Nothing absurd comes from the Mannequin deck, so this holds true.

G6: A Damnation blows up my turn 2 Prowler, turn 3 Scion start, and then two Riftwing come off suspend on consecutive turns. Mannequin demands a counter once I trade with a Cloudskate so I can try to get to Sower mana to stay in the game. It matters not, as the singleton Venser stops Sower, and I die the following turn.

G7: Mannequin mulls to five. A turn 1 Stinger, turn 2 Prowler and turn 3 Scion have my opponent scooping quickly.

G8: Read game 6, but replace Sower with Cryptic Command to stall out the damage race which got bounced for my death.

The next two games are quite boring, as Mannequin folded to turn 2 Prowler in one after seeing twenty two cards with no Damnation or Cloudskate to turn the tide, and the other was a simple case of color screw added too, with Cryptic Command hitting to prevent a Damnation.

7-3 Faeries, although the wins were much closer than against the other control decks, and knowledge that this build had Damnation directly won one game.

Observations and Thoughts

You have a couple of advantages over Ruel’s build and many of the builds floating around. The first is that Epochrasite and Phyrexian Ironfoot are complete garbage against you. All of your creatures fly, both are fun to steal with Sower, and both are pretty bad at offense; not to mention taking resources away from the opponent if they are used aggressively. Mulldrifter and Cloudskate are both the main defensive options that aren’t Damnation, and both only trade at best. The embarrassing part is that is they can resolve two or three of these early that can actually be enough to stall you out if they have the Drifter or Shadowmage engine running. Thankfully both of these creatures are slow to come out, so you can usually counter the first one or play Scion in response to Cloudskate.

Mannequin will typically beat Faeries when it can set itself up a position where it can leverage Mulldrifter and recursion effects against you. That’s very difficult for those not running Damnation or multiple Grim Harvest, so about half the builds are actually far easier to be than the match normally should be. For the remaining ones you have to weigh early offense against saving a trump like Cryptic Command for Mannequin or Profane Command. This can become risky, because it means letting Damnation or Shriekmaw significantly slow you down to try and gain an edge a few turns later. Also note that they can use Oona’s Prowler against you, discarding something like Bottle Gnomes or Mulldrifter and then using a recursion card to slide it into play at instant speed, or while killing one of your creatures.

Most games will come down to laying an early beater like Prowler or Pestermite and then pressing it, only countering direct removal or blockers. For the rest you need to be careful with rationing your few counters, and take advantage of Sower and Clique, since both have the potential to make a serious impact on a board state. Remember also, Scion or Clique in response to a hardcast Shriekmaw is practically a five-mana null spell on the Mannequin player. He’s going to race you in maybe one out of twelve games, so losing out on the removal portion is usually an unrecoverable loss of tempo. Look for players just to evoke ASAP to stay at double digits long as possible, which leaves them open to blowouts on Rune Snag / Command on Profane Command or Grim Harvest.

Think of this as a Pickles match, but they have some early game options and their end game isn’t compressed into getting a fragile two-card creature combo into play against a deck with counters and creature removal.

Sideboards vary too much from build to build to give real advice, but I’ll answer any e-mail about it depending on what you think the opposing build may be.

And that’s all for this week! I feel the Faeries deck has a very good match against the control decks game 1, and really only UB Mannequin seems like a real challenge from an entire match perspective. Everybody else either has to rely on cards like Desert or Aven Riftwatcher to buy time, which typically is only going to matter the majority of the time against only a few specifically tuned builds. Otherwise a lot of the typical aggro-control advantages shine through in these matches, with sweepers being much less of an issue than recurring blockers or reusable removal. Hopefully that answers many of the Faeries questions I’ve recently received, and feel free to e-mail any others to me if you still have any thoughts / suggestions.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
E-mail me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom