Deep Analysis – Who’s Afraid of the Fae?

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Thursday, July 3rd – Block Constructed appears to be blighted with that most dangerous of Magical animal – the 800lb Elephant in the Room. This Elephant, as we know, is Blue, and Black, and has wings. Yes. The Faeries matchup is the first port of call for anyone looking to navigate the choppy seas of Block Constructed. Can Richard’s Triple Tribe deck be tweaked to take down the Fae? Read on to find out!

Here’s the list I ended up with last week.

This week I went with a minor maindeck adjustment – moving two of the Crib Swaps main over two of the Nameless Inversions – and developed a sideboard over the course of testing this Thoughtseize-powered build against Kithkin, Faeries, and the Little Kid Green deck Mike Flores wrote about last week. I went with Little Kid Green over Five Color because I didn’t have time to do both, already have data on the Five Color matchup, and am no longer sure what Five Color build I should be testing against.

The reasoning behind the two-Inversion, two Crib Swap package is pretty simple. Nameless Inversion is pretty much always better against Kithkin. Crib Swap is pretty much always better against Five Color and other Green decks. I want access to both against Faeries, as one is cheap and does not leave a chump-blocker behind and the other gives me answers to Mistbind Clique. Either way, I need eight Changelings to power my manabase, but if I go with a four Crib Swap package, I will probably be destroyed any time I draw two of them against Kithkin. Likewise, if I stick with the four Nameless Inversion package, I will probably continue to be destroyed (as I certainly have been in the past) against Five Color when I draw two Inversions that aspire to trade with Mulldrifters or shrink Kitchen Finks (vomit), and will have no outs to Shield of the Oversoul in my main.

Having explained all that, I’ll get straight to the testing.

Matchup 1: Faeries

Game 1: We both mulligan once. My turn 2 Wren’s Run Vanquisher (revealing Colossus) resolves, but the Colossus itself is countered. My next one sticks, and makes trouble for Bitterblossom and Oona. Brion Stoutarm is hit by Cryptic Command, bouncing the Colossus, but he once again resolves when re-played. A Firespout for the Scion, a token, and Sower of Temptation (on the re-played Colossus) turns the tide back in my favor, and he doesn’t draw any further answers for the Colossus.

Game 2: We both mulligan again. I Thoughtseize him and choose Mistbind Clique over Bitterblossom. He plays the Blossom, then a Vendilion Clique, which I am content to race with the Brion Stoutarm I resolve. He adds a Scion to try to start actually winning the race against my four points of lifegain per turn, but I clear them all out with Cloudthresher. A second Thoughtseize strips the last business spell from his hand, and he does not topdeck anything to deal with the Stoutarm.

Game 3: My opener is Vivid Grove, Vivid Meadow, Reflecting Pool, Thoughtseize, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Nameless Inversion, Chameleon Colossus. Great mix – keep! My opponent keeps as well. Despite resolving Spellstutter Sprite on Thoughtseize and then another on Chameleon Colossus (thanks to two Mutavault), my Doran and Wren’s Run Vanquisher are beating him down. He tries to buy time with Pestermite, but my Evoked Cloudthresher puts me in the driver’s seat. He doesn’t have enough blockers to deal with my 3/3 and 5/5.

Game 4: My opener is similar to last time, with two Vivid Meadows and a Gilt-Leaf Palace. This time I have Leaf Gilder, Chameleon Colossus, Brion Stoutarm, and Firespout. My opponent double-mulligans, which is sure to help. He counters Brion, but has only Sower to stall Colossus. I Firespout his team away, and he does not draw any further answers to Colossus.

Game 5: My opener has only two lands and lots of expensive creatures. I mull into Vivid Grove, Ancient Amphitheater, Vanquisher, Doran, Brion, Oversoul. A solid curve if I can topdeck an Elf or a land, at least. My opponent also goes to six. I don’t draw an Elf or a land, and am quickly overwhelmed by Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite, and Cryptic Command countering everything I play.

Game 6: I have a threat-light opener with only Doran, Nameless Inversion, Cloudthresher, and lands. However, I am unlikely to do better from a six-card hand, so I keep. My opponent goes to six. Doran is my first threat, and he is predictably countered. A topdecked Colossus meets a similar fate, but since I have been drawing so many lands, I am able to respond to his Mistbind Clique on my upkeep with a hardcast Cloudthresher. He immediately steals it with Sower, but I have Thoughtseize to handle my opponent’s last card in hand, Cryptic Command, allowing Firespout to give me back my 7/7. A topdecked Pestermite puts me at four from a Mistbind and Bitterblossom token attack, but next turn I have Crib Swap to stop his Mistbind from attacking for the win. He tries to stop it with Spellstutter Sprite, but I evoke a second Cloudthresher to clear his board except for the Shapeshifter token. I topdeck another threat, and he does not topdeck an answer, so Bitterblossom cannot hold off both of my lethal attackers.

Game 7: Similar to last game, my opener has Doran as its first threat. However, this one has no potential turn 2 play against Kithkin, meaning it will be too slow if my opponent has that deck. I have to send it back. My six-card hand is a one-lander, which also goes back. My five cards are Gilt-Leaf Palace, two Reflecting Pools, Cloudthresher, and Oversoul. I topdeck and resolve a Doran, use Cloudthresher to kill off his first Sower of Temptation, but have no removal for the second Sower. Doran beats me down.

Game 8: Early Thoughtseizes allow me to resolve an Oversoul of Dusk when I know the only card my opponent is holding is Sower of Temptation. At 15 life, he has very little time left in this world. The Oversoul clocks him once, then he taps it down with Cryptic Command. I use this opportunity to evoke Cloudthresher to clear out the Bitterblossom tokens he has been amassing and knock him to 7 life. (I don’t want to hardcast it because I know he is holding Sower of Temptation, and if he can defend it, I will have needlessly given him an out to my Oversoul.) Next turn his Bitterblossom drops him to 6, and on the following turn Oversoul hits him to 1 life with Bitterblossom out.

Game 9: My opener is classically gassy: Vivid Grove, a pair of Ancient Amphitheaters, a pair of Wren’s Run Vanquishers, and a pair of Chameleon Colossi to power the rest of the hand. My opponent starts with Bitterblossom while I have Vivid Grove into Amphitheater revealing Colossus and then Vanquisher revealing Colossus. He plays a second Blossom after my second Vanquisher is hit by Spellstutter Sprite. I miss my fourth land drop and am stuck holding no sweepers and no castable threats. The two Blossoms quickly overwhelm me.

Game 10: I open with a pair of Thoughtseizes and a Firespout that clears out Vendilion Clique and Pestermite. I then stick a Chameleon Colossus, and my opponent does not topdeck an answer in time.


This set pretty much showcased the keys that I talked about last week. I nearly lost game 6 to a well-timed Mistbind Clique, and only pulled it out because of Crib Swap – glad I included those! I routinely steamrolled Bitterblossom draws (as I usually do; there’s really no need for me to board enchantment removal for this matchup), but when those are backed up by enough counters to match my threats – see games five and nine – I get too far behind and am overwhelmed. Their most dangerous role in this matchup seems to be as an enabler of Spellstutter Sprite as a hard counter for even my largest threats.

Looking back at these games, I could see an argument for a four-Crib Swap package. Crib Swap would have always been approximately as good as Nameless Inversion; in one instance it was critical that I had a Swap and not an Inversion, as it was able to take out a Mistbind Clique for the win, and in the cases where I had Nameless Inversion, Crib Swap would not have been substantially worse. The only remaining counterarguments are the fact that Swap is much worse against Kithkin, and that drawing two Swaps against Faeries would be, I think, rather bad.

Besides, this set reminded me of another reason a four-Swap package would be dangerous: it would leave me with only eight two-drops. Ten is risky enough as it is, and keeping hands with no action before turn 3 is a huge risk with Kithkin in the format.

Oversoul obviously won me the one game where I resolved it, as it usually does. However, I also had dead-weight Oversouls sitting in my hand in the two games I lost, since I did not have enough mana to make use of them. I am getting the sense that the number of Oversouls I want against Faeries might be only two, giving me enough that I can expect to topdeck them for clean-up duty in the late game, but not so many that I will draw them a lot. I may consider boarding down to two for the fourth Cloudthresher.

Matchup 2: Little Kid Green

Game 1: Opener is 2x Vivid Meadow, Murmuring Bosk, 2x Thoughtseize, Brion Stoutarm, Cloudthresher. Seems good; keep. Opponent double-mulls. I lead with Vivid Meadow, in case I’m against Kithkin and the life loss from turn 2 Thoughtseize off Murmuring Bosk could prove very relevant. I Thoughtseize and see Safehold Elite, Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Kitchen Finks, Oblivion Ring, Barkshell Blessing. I take Oblivion Ring. He topdecks a land and plays Safehold Elite, then topdecks another land and gets back in the game. A second O-Ring takes out my Stoutarm, and after a lot of trades we arrive at a stalemate, with his Safehold Elite enchanted with Shield of the Oversoul and holding off my lethal Doran. Eventually I topdeck Brion Stoutarm, though, and am able to throw a Chameleon Colossus at him for more than his life total.

Game 2: He plays turn 2 Safehold Elite. I Thoughtseize a Shield of the Oversoul, but he has a second for his Elite. I never find a Cloudthresher or Crib Swap (or Nameless Inversion; this game would have had the same outcome had I been maindecking four Swaps and zero Inversions), so it just races me after he plays a Kitchen Finks to get in the way of my attackers.

Game 3: Again I Thoughtseize a Shield of the Oversoul, but he topdecks a second and again I don’t have removal to stop it. My Cloudthresher holds off the fatty, but eventually he adds Wilt-Leaf Liege and his Shielded Cavaliers become 7/8.

Game 4: He misses his third land drop, and finally makes his second play (after turn 1 Hexhunter) when he’s already staring down Leaf Gilder, Doran, Brion Stoutarm, and a fistful of removal.

Game 5: I get stuck on three lands holding Firespouts against Wilt-Leaf Liege and Kitchen Finks.

Game 6: Same as game 2, he has turn 2 Gaddock Teeg, turn 3 Shield of the Oversoul, with Kitchen Finks to make racing impossible. I have no answer.

Game 7: He ends up with Wilt-Leaf Liege staring down my Doran when I’m at 6. He topdecks Oblivion Ring to knock me to 2 and deactivate the Cloudthresher I was going to play next turn. I topdeck a land.

Game 8: Same as games 2 and 6, he has turn 2 Gaddock Teeg, turn 3 Shield of the Oversoul, with Kitchen Finks to make racing impossible. I have no answer once again.

Game 9: He mulligans and I have Thoughtseize on turns 1 and 3, removing all relevant threats from his hand. Meanwhile I play out a series of fatties that he is nowhere close to dealing with.

Game 10: We get into a creature stalemate; I topdeck lands while he topdecks Wilt-Leaf Liege.


I was talking to Zac the other day about how Little Kid Green’s strategy against Faeries and Kithkin seems to revolve around two Hail Mary bombs: Gaddock Teeg and Shield of the Oversoul. Instead of designing a deck that is not wrecked by Mirrorweave, you opt for the Hail Mary solution up front by maindecking four Legends that turn it off while they are in play. (God help you if you don’t have the Teeg and they do have the Mirrorweave, or if they Oblivion Ring the Teeg.) Against Faeries, you count on Teeg to stop Cryptic Command and Broken Ambitions, but all it takes is a Nameless Inversion (Barkshell Blessing is Exhibit A for how much the deck leans on Gaddock Teeg to solve its problems, and that won’t be nearly as effective now that people know about it) to re-enable Command, just in time for it to turn around the race as it so often does against Green decks.

And let’s face it – every deck has at least one spell which will make you vomit blood if you cast Shield of the Oversoul and they show you the answer. “I will enchant my Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers with this Aura. Oh, you have Cryptic Command? Hold up while I retch bile.” “Is that Oblivion Ring? Hang on, hooking up intravenous poison.” As Adrian Sullivan put it, the strategy is to “make them show you the Cryptic Command,” and when they can’t, it’s up to Bitterblossom or Spectral Procession to chump the defending deck’s way to victory. That’s all well and good… except when they show you the Cryptic Command.

This is the type of card I hate to run because when you play it, you generally must set yourself up for a potential blowout in order to reap its benefits. You run it out there on your turn 2 Safehold Elite, and if they have the Oblivion Ring, you just Wrathed yourself. (It’s not always that bad, but it is quite the tempo swing pretty much no matter when they answer it.) Similar to Chapin’s argument against running Dredge in this past Extended season, the argument against Shield of the Oversoul is that playing it opens the door for a player of lesser skill to gain a massive advantage on you, simply by drawing the right card at the right time.

Still, against a list like mine, with only two maindeck answers and no card draw (or against specifically Jelger’s Kithkin maindeck, which has only two Harriers and no Oblivion Ring), the blowout answer is rare and usually the Shield is just a beating. My post-board plan for this matchup will definitely be to max out on Crib Swaps and Oblivion Rings, as Shield seems to be by far their most powerful weapon against me. (Fortunately, even if they try to “win the sideboard war” and board out the Shields, they both remain solid removal spells against another fatty deck.)

Matchup 3: Kithkin

Game 1: I open with Gilt-Leaf Palace, Ancient Amphitheater, Reflecting Pool, two Leaf Gilders, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and Chameleon Colossus. I draw into Thoughtseize, which steals a Spectral Procession, and trade Colossus for Mirror Entity after a double-block featuring a Cenn and Entity. I have a backup Colossus as well, and a Cloudthresher to answer his next Procession.

Game 2: I mulligan a one-lander and keep a weak six that is just barely worth keeping over going to five: Vivid Grove, Amphitheater, Leaf Gilder, Vanquisher, and two Firespouts. I miss my third land drop, and so have to cast Leaf Gilder (knowing I will Firespout him away) to make sure I can Spout next turn. (I draw the land on the following turn anyway, as it happens.) Spout knocks out Goldmeadow Stalwart, Wizened Cenn, my Gilder, and a freshly-cast Spectral Procession. Next turn the opponent rebuilds with another Cenn and a Knight of Meadowgrain. I Spout again, and he is out of gas.

Game 3: My opener has two lands and two Dorans, along with a Vanquisher, a Firespout, and a Colossus. Seems good. I hold off on playing the Firespout until he has three guys with which to activate his two Windbrisk Heights, at which point my Doran and Colossus smash across for an easy victory.

Game 4: After a Mirror Entity strike drops me to 6, I Firespout away the board. Things are looking great for my Doran and Oversoul until he plays Thistledown Liege and then topdecks Cloudgoat Ranger. I topdeck Crib Swap to deal with the Liege and make the attack non-lethal, but with Windbrisk Heights serving up a Knight of Meadowgrain, he has the two chumpers necessary to stop my two lethal 5/5 attackers. This could have potentially been an argument in Nameless Inversion’s favor over Crib Swap (it wouldn’t have yielded him the second chumper he needed), except that he was holding Rustic Clachan; if I had gone for the Inversion on Thistledown Liege (which I needed to survive his attack), I would have immediately died.

Game 5: I mulligan a hand of two Thoughtseize, two Firespout, and land. This deck needs some aggression to go with its disruption, thank you very much. My next six are more reasonable, and after a Firespout that clears blockers away from two Chameleon Colossi, even two consecutive Cloudgoat Rangers are not enough to counter my offensive advantage.

Game 6: I mulligan a one-lander into a zero-lander and keep a hand of four lands and Wren’s Run Vanquisher. I topdeck a Thoughtseize and it is the only spell I cast this game.

Game 7: I have a strong start, clearing out my opponent’s hand with three Thoughtseizes and his board with Firespout. He has nothing in play but lands (including a Mutavault) and I have just played Brion Stoutarm when he topdecks Cloudgoat Ranger. He swings with his team, and I block the 3/3 with Brion to avoid taking lethal damage; as it happened, his next topdeck was Thistledown Liege, resulting in a trade. I draw a land for an answer and try to stabilize the ground with Doran and Wren’s Run Vanquisher, but he has a Spectral Procession off Windbrisk Heights to finish me off in conjunction with the Liege.

Game 8: I start with Doran and Chameleon Colossus holding off Knight of Meadowgrain and Goldmeadow Stalwart (after a few hits). I start racing with the pair while my opponent is stalled on three lands. He doesn’t find a fourth until it is too late.

Game 9: I mulligan three consecutive no-landers and keep a four-card hand that has one land and no plays before Firespout. I draw the third land too late.

Game 10: We get to a board stall and he draws Mirror Entity. I have no removal, so his four guys turn into 5/5s and I cannot deal with them.


So that’s 4-1 on the play, and 1-4 on the draw, with Crib Swap having no impact on the outcome of any of the games. In my experience, this matchup is not as lopsided based on playing or drawing first as this result would suggest; if you look at the games, I mulliganed into oblivion in games six and nine (which randomly happened to occur on the draw rather than on the play), and the remaining three losses were very close games. In game four, the math was barely on his side, and in games seven and ten, it was only that he topdecked backbreakers while I topdecked land after I had stabilized the board; theoretically, since I was on the draw, my chances of emerging victorious from those stalemates were better than they would have been if I had been on the play in the same situations. My previous set against Kithkin was 7-3, bringing my record with maindeck Thoughtseize to 12-8 against them. The matchup definitely feels solidly in my favor, and I will not be unhappy to be paired against Kithkin at a PTQ.

As an aside, I am interested in trying out Devoted Druid over Leaf Gilder. One of my original reasons for wanting Gilder over Druid was that Gilder attacks against Five Color Control, but I can never recall that damage being relevant. Another point in the favor of the 2/1 is that it can trade with Kithkin’s men; while that remains valid, I had not considered that the Druid can block, on turn 2 and beyond, incoming Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders and Goldmeadow Harriers, which is not true of Gilder when I will need its mana later on. Druid also lets me hardcast Cloudthreshers earlier against Kithkin, which might prove more important than discouraging Cenn attacks by being a 2/1.

The Sideboard

I had a good, long chat with the Chatter of Chatters, Zac Hill, about the sideboard for this deck. He suggested that Puppeteer Clique would be insane against five-color control, and I am excited to try it out. We also agreed that the optimal way to position Crib Swaps and Nameless Inversions is with two in the main and two in the board. The deck’s manabase really demands eight Changelings, and this configuration gives you the setup you want against Kithkin (four Inversion post-board), Faeries (2 of each at all times), and Five-Color Control (four Swap post-board). Going two and two in the main has the added bonus of being the count you want against Faeries, while decreasing the odds that you will get stuck with two Crib Swaps against Kithkin or two Inversions against Five Color, neither of which are desirable scenarios.

Beyond the Puppeteer Cliques and Changelings, the four Oblivion Rings are there for Kithkin and Little Kid Green. Against Kithkin, it’s clear that I want to board out the Oversouls for some additional removal; though I’d usually prefer Shriekmaw, I will much rather have Oblivion Ring if they drop Ajani, and Oblivion Ring is substantially better against Little Kid Green.

Zac suggested Vexing Shusher for the board against Faeries, and I pointed out that I’d strictly prefer Gaddock Teeg. Zac then suggested I try Gaddock Teeg, which I am now pursuing. There are two questions about Gaddock Teeg that need to be answered before I will commit to him in my board. The first is whether or not he will be worth it against Faeries. Obviously he’s good against Faeries, but the question here is what I should be taking out. Thoughtseize and Cloudthresher are obviously going nowhere, and nor are my Changelings. Leaf Gilder is important for the manabase, which leaves Vanquisher, Stoutarm, Doran, and Oversoul. Both Doran and Brion Stoutarm are incredibly strong in this matchup; Doran requires constant chumping, and Brion helps me win damage races that would otherwise be decided by my opponent’s chump blocking or tapping effects.

That leaves Oversoul of Dusk and Wren’s Run Vanquisher. Vanquisher is important for putting on early pressure, and Oversoul is a monstrous beating if I can resolve it. Given that lowering my curve against Faeries is desirable, I will try boarding out Oversoul for Teeg, though if this does indeed prove an upgrade, it may not be enough of an upgrade to justify devoting an entire sideboard slot to it. I will plan to board it in against Five Color Control as well, though I am even more skeptical of his results against a deck with that much removal in it. We’ll see.

Finally, we have the fifteenth sideboard slot, which I settled on devoting to a fourth Doran. This is for the Five Color matchup; I chose the fourth Doran over the fourth Oversoul because I will already have three Oversouls and three Puppeteer Cliques in the five-slot, and feel it would be risky going up to seven of those in a 24-land deck.

The list, then:

The sideboarding plans are as follows.

+3 Oblivion Ring
+2 Nameless Inversion
-3 Oversoul of Dusk
-2 Crib Swap

+3 Gaddock Teeg
-3 Oversoul of Dusk

Five Color Control:
+3 Puppeteer Clique
+3 Gaddock Teeg
+1 Doran, the Siege Tower
-4 Firespout
-3 Cloudthresher

Little Kid Green:
+4 Oblivion Ring
+2 Crib Swap
-4 Firespout
-2 Nameless Inversion

Who’s Afraid?

As of right now, I seem to be one of the only players who is not concerned about a Faeries pairing. Am I overconfident? Adrian tells me there are some Faeries players in Wisconsin (Sam Black in particular) who make the deck do things mere mortals cannot, which makes me wonder how dependent this matchup is on the abilities of the Faeries player. Am I only doing well because I don’t have a Grand Master Faeries Pilot for a playtest partner, or is the main determining factor the incredibly high anti-Faeries threat density of Triple Tribe? If you have any experience playing the two decks against one another, I’d like to hear about it in the forums.

See you next week!

Richard Feldman
Team :S
[email protected]