Feature Article – Five-Color Fae in Block Constructed

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Friday, July 25th – With Mike Flores taking a well-earned week off, today we have Constructed master Gerry Thompson, and a tale of a double-header PTQ weekend in which he came close, but not close enough. His weapon of choice for the two-day Magic extravaganza? Five-Color Fae. He brings us intricate match recaps and deck analysis, alongside an Eventide-friendly list he plans on playing at his next Block Constructed PTQ…

This past weekend I departed lovely Ames, Iowa, and headed for the double PTQ weekend in Kansas. While I didn’t walk away with blue envelope, two of my friends did. Not only that, but I gained valuable information that will help me (and now you!) for the remaining Block Constructed tournaments. I decided that with Faeries taking over 2/3 of the slots to Berlin, it would be stupid of me to not play it myself.

This is the list I played in the first PTQ in Wichita:

4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Scion of Oona
4 Mistbind Clique
2 Sower of Temptation

4 Thoughtseize
2 Peppersmoke
3 Broken Ambitions
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Bitterblossom
4 Cryptic Command

4 Secluded Glen
4 Sunken Ruins
4 Mutavault
2 Vivid Creek
4 Swamp
7 Island

4 Shriekmaw
3 Incremental Blight
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Peppersmoke
3 Puppeteer Clique
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae

I started 3-0 and was even up a game in round 4. At that point, I decided to throw away not only game 2, but game 3 as well. To prove that there is some justice, I then mulliganed to five in the fifth round and got destroyed in the second game. I stayed in as I had nothing better to do, and won round 6, but dropped after that.

I wasn’t exactly upset with this list. It played pretty well and I won most of the matches that I should have. However, I didn’t give myself any chance to play out the entire tournament by punting round 4. I wanted to try something else for the second PTQ. Incremental Blight was pretty bad, especially against the Merfolk deck round 4. Either you use your plentiful spot removal to keep them off of three guys, or they do explode and don’t give you time to Blight them, especially if they have a Cursecatcher or two.

I remember testing a five-color Fae list like the one Marijn wrote about a month ago. Firespout was key against Kithkin and seemed far better (especially against Merfolk) than Incremental Blight could ever be. Not only that, but then you could splash Wispmare to give you an out to a resolved Bitterblossom. Vivid lands plus Reflecting Pool make it all possible. Obviously eight sources won’t be enough, so I added some Graven Cairns and Mystic Gates.

Here’s what I registered on Sunday:

4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Scion of Oona
4 Mistbind Clique
2 Sower of Temptation
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae

4 Bitterblossom
4 Nameless Inversion
2 Firespout
4 Cryptic Command
2 Thoughtseize
3 Broken Ambitions

4 Vivid Creek
4 Vivid Marsh
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Mutavault
4 Secluded Glen
3 Graven Cairns
3 Mystic Gate

2 Firespout
4 Wispmare
2 Sower of Temptation
1 Plumeveil
3 Puppeteer Clique
3 Crib Swap

I added a land for several reasons. First of all, I consider this list to be much more controlling. That is the role you take in all of the matchups except against other control decks. You really need to hit all your land drops and have the right colors to cast your spells. Second, I went up to 26 lands because I now had several awkward lands like Vivids and filter lands, and drawing those in multiples is pretty bad if they are your only lands.

Take, for example, Vivid Creek, Vivid Marsh, and five spells. That hand is going to be pretty bad, but if it’s two Vivid lands and any other land, you can definitely keep it.

Similarly, a hand with Graven Cairns, Mystic Gate, and five spells is a mulligan. However, add something like a Secluded Glen or Vivid land and you can probably keep it. Playing more lands makes more hands keepable, and therefore you will mulligan less.

While this solution helps you mulligan less, it isn’t perfect. There were a couple of games where I kept Vivid Creek, Graven Cairns, and spells, or Graven Cairns, Mystic Gate, Mutavault, and spells, and then failed to draw any other land, or at least lands that would help me cast my spells. Almost always these hands were kept after a mulligan, as I felt I had a much better chance to win by drawing a land after I already have a very good hand than mulliaganing into a potentially worse five-card hand.

Naturally, with Eventide, Cascade Bluffs can replace Graven Cairns in the above list.

Because of the amount of Vivids and colorless lands, I decided to only play two Thoughtseizes. Originally I cut them all, but after Spellstutters, Cryptics, and Broken Ambitions, I wanted two more permission spells as I felt that I already had a solid game against aggressive decks. Thoughtseize is the next best option, even if it isn’t castable until turn 3 or so.

Due to the average casting costs in Block being so high, I considered cutting a Spellstutter Sprite. Unless you have a Bitterblossom (i.e. unless you’re winning anyway), Spellstutter doesn’t often counter anything. You will usually just run it out there to get in a few points, maybe trade with something if you have a Scion, or be able to safely champion a Mistbind Clique, but after testing I’ve determined that cutting one would be a terrible idea.

The games you’re winning because of Bitterblossom aren’t strictly because of the enchantment. It’s because of the way that Bitterblossom turns on your entire deck and makes it run so smoothly. If you start cutting those cards that feed off your engine, the engine will stop winning you games. This is also why running four Bitterblossoms in any random list isn’t going to get you anywhere. The Faerie deck’s Bitterblossoms will always trump a non-Faerie fueled Bitterblossom.

The Oona main deck was mainly because I had fewer ways to beat a Bitterblossom. Without the full amount of Thoughtseizes, I was basically kold to a resolved Bitterblossom. Oona, while almost always trumping Bitterblossom, is slow and awkward. You almost never want it in your opener and if you’re not careful, Sower of Temptation is going to wreck you. Drawing one Oona is always fine while drawing two is unacceptable. Therefore, one is the correct number. I considered siding a second, but with four Wispmares coming in, its unnecessary.

The two Firespout, two Sower, four Inversion configuration may seem strange, but it makes sense to me. They all serve a similar purpose, but drawing one of each is almost always better than drawing multiples of a certain one. Would you rather draw one of each Inversion, Sower, and Spout against Kithkin or three Firespouts? You might immediately answer, “Three Firespouts, obviously. Moron.” However, when you take into consideration Kithkin’s Forge Tenders, you definitely would rather have one Inversion, two Spouts.

Sower is a card I was constantly impressed by. Cloudthresher decks are on the decline as more of the people who were trying to beat Faeries are simply playing Faeries themselves, or they’ve decided to play more aggressive Green decks with Chameleon Colossus or Doran. While the general consensus is that Sower is terrible in the mirror, I went from keeping the two in post board to boarding in the third, to then being very happy to board up to four. They are usually unexpected and difficult to kill if played correctly.

Most players will fight to resolve and protect their Scions, assuming that there is nothing worthwhile that you can resolve in your main phase (which is another reason why Oona can sometimes be amazing). Sower destroys them at that point. Assembling double Scion is almost always game from my experience, and Sower makes that more likely.

Even when they have Bitterblossom and you don’t, Sower is one of those cards that stop you from dying until you can find an answer.

Puppeteer Clique is your weapon to fight decks with Cloudthresher, Makeshift Mannequin, and Mulldrifter. While those decks are on the decline, the matchup is close enough that I would want to still play the Clique as they are basically an “I win” card. If you expect literally zero of those matchups, feel free to cut them.

Crib Swap was my answer to Doran, Colossus, and generally just hard to handle creatures. You don’t necessarily need them, as those matchups are typically good, but I like to cover my bases instead of swaying my deck towards one matchup and hoping I get paired against that deck every round. Again, if you feel like you can run it without them, go ahead.

My plan in the mirror was to side in four Wispmare, two Sower, miser’s Plumeveil, and side out four Mistbind Clique and three Broken Ambitions on the draw. On the play I would board out the two Thoughtseizes instead of Ambitions. I tried siding out the Firespouts, but the way the games played out, I would want answers to them having double Scion, or even having an active Bitterblossom before I could draw into a Wispmare. If I didn’t have Spouts, I would just be drawing dead.

Most people will even tap out to cast a Scion if it makes your blocks favorable for them or if it cuts your clock for a turn, at which point Firespout can be a beating. Most of my opponents and friends assumed that I would board out Firespout since I was such a heavy anti-Spout proponent when playing other control decks, but most of those decks had Cloudthresher to play the role of sweeper.

The singleton Plumeveil may look awkward, and it probably is. It was originally the second Oona, but I think that a Plumeveil is better. The decks in this format beat you in so many different ways that it’s good to have diversified answers for once. I wanted to run more Plumeveils but didn’t have the room. At the very least, I should have had them instead of the Incremental Blights in my first PTQ deck.

Plumeveil can stop the swarms and it can stop the grizzly bears. There’s almost no time that it’s a bad draw against aggressive decks. In the mirror, Plumeveil ambushes Mutavaults and Scions, forcing them to fight on their turn, which is basically the perfect scenario for you. It can also hold off Bitterblossom for a while and trade with Mistbind Clique (if they are inexperienced enough to keep it in).

First round I played against a stock Elemental deck. Neither of the games were really close due to my opponent not playing his instants optimally.

I sided in three Puppeteer Cliques, three Crib Swaps, and two Firespouts for four Nameless Inversions, two Sowers, and two Scions.

Second round I played against a good player with a version of Chapin’s Solar Flare deck. While he was shuffling, I thought I saw an Island and some Blue cards, so I thought he might be Merfolk. I went into the tank over my double Firespout opener and ultimately decided that it was good enough to keep even if he wasn’t playing what I thought he was. I Thoughtseized him turn 2 on the play, and saw that he kept Nameless Inversion, Negate, and lands. While he played well, that keep seemed a bit suspect.

Due to my pseudo double mulligan and lack of Bitterblossom, I wasn’t really doing much except playing draw-go with him. He outlanded me pretty fierce, and I thought I was going to lose once he evoked a Mulldrifter and Commanded my Command, but my Firespouts killed his attempts at Sowering my offense. Austere Command killed my topdecked Bitterblossom, but a pair of Mutavaults finished him off.

I boarded in two Sowers, three Puppeteers for two Firespouts, two Scions, and the Oona. I wasn’t exactly sure about this sideboarding plan as I kind of wanted Crib Swaps for Doran, but wanted a cheap way to kill Sower as well.

My hand for game 2 was pretty sick. I had a Bitterblossom to match his, but his third turn Doran was scary. He showed me a Nameless Inversion for his Secluded Glen, so I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to double block his Doran and then Inversion it post combat, as he would see through that play and Inversion a token. I simply blocked his Doran with a token each turn while waiting for my fourth land. His army continued to accumulate, he Wispmared my Blossom, and I still didn’t have a fourth land.

I decided to re-sideboard, considering his Bitterblossom sideboard plan. Thankfully, while I fixed my deck, he didn’t touch his sideboard, so I knew my Wispmares would be good. I ended up bringing in three Wispmare (I didn’t want to draw multiples and still had Scions to win the war) and two Sowers for two Firespouts, Oona, and two Broken Ambitions.

Puppeteer Clique didn’t seem very good any more as the matchup was now focused on Bitterblossom advantage and not his graveyard. I probably should have had some Crib Swaps instead of Nameless Inversion, but I’m not really sure what I was thinking at that point.

Third game I basically had the nuts. I Thoughtseized him and saw that he kept another slow hand with Mulldrifter and (I think) a Negate and Cryptic Command. I took the Mulldrifter and played a Bitterblossom. He played his own but I had a Wispmare. At this point I could play a second Bitterblossom or attempt to play around Austere Command and hold it back. He was making all of his land drops so I wanted to put the maximum pressure on him because his big control cards could take over. If he had Austere he would be in fine shape, but I would still be in the game. It seemed like he couldn’t beat the second Bitterblossom and I had no way of knowing how many Austeres he had. The reward was much greater than the risk, so I ran with it. John Penick says I might have been wrong, but I disagree.

He ended up having Doran, which I Sowered and attacked him down to ten. He Sowered my Sower and passed. I drew a Scion, and could attack with everyone and get through for four damage or cast the Scion and get in for eight and put him to two. If he had Austere, it seemed like I would be in a much better position with him at two and having nothing, instead of him at six and me with a Scion in my hand. Again, I went with the aggressive play. During my next upkeep he Cryptic Commanded my team and drew a card, while I drew a Wispmare and cast it. Even if he had a removal spell, he could only attack me to four. Without another Cryptic or Austere, he was dead.

Third round I played against a Merfolk deck. First game was pretty easy. I played a Bitterblossom, killed some of his guys, and eventually he just died to tokens.

I sideboarded in two Sowers, two Firespouts, two Crib Swaps, and the Plumeveil for four Mistbind Cliques and the Broken Ambitions while I was on the draw.

Second game I mulliganed an unkeepable hand into Graven Cairns, Mystic Gate, and Vivid Marsh. I didn’t have a Firespout or Bitterblossom, but my hand was good, and with almost any land I could cast anything in my deck. The game went on for a while due to my removal and a midgame Bitterblossom, but the lands I drew were more filter lands and a couple Mutavaults. If I had drawn a real land I would have been fine as the game was a grind and I was holding Cryptic, Sower, and a Scion at the end.

For the last game I played Vivid Creek, then Graven Cairns and Bitterblossom. He made a bunch of animals with his Reejerey. I tapped him out on his turn by forcing him to Crib Swap a surprise Scion that threatened to trade with his important creatures. On my turn I Firespouted his entire squad, leaving me with two tokens and almost a full hand while he had a Mutavault and only a couple cards.

Fourth round I played against one of Penick’s friends, Andrew Underwood. Penick has been telling me how good Andrew was for months now, but thankfully he was playing a Doran deck (oddly enough, one that had evolved from a Reaper King deck) instead of a real deck. I won the die roll and played Bitterblossom followed by a pair of Mistbind Cliques. His sorcery speed deck can’t really beat that draw.

We had shown each other our decks the day before, but I didn’t really pay much attention as we weren’t in the same brackets at the time. At this point, I wish I remembered what he had to board in against Faeries.

I brought in the three Crib Swaps, two Sowers, a Firespouts, and the Plumeveil for the Ambitions and Scions. He had enough little guys that I wanted a decent amount of Firespouts, but most of them had persist. He also had Doran, Colossus, and Wilt-Leaf Liege, so I didn’t want to choke on them either.

Second game we both kept our openers, but he stalled on lands for a bit. The miser’s Plumeveil ate half of a Finks and I was able to Cryptic anything relevant. Eventually, the Mistbind Cliques started showing up and he couldn’t do anything to stop them.

So far I’m 4-0 in this tournament and 8-2 on the weekend, and I hadn’t played against the mirror once. That didn’t seem like it would last long, as almost all of the top tables were Faerie mirrors.

My prediction came true when I got paired against my friend Brett McCleaf. I don’t remember much about the first game except that I lost and was jokingly (okay, maybe half jokingly) complaining about him getting lucky. I know that I mulliganed and that he probably played turn 1 Thoughtseize, turn 2 Bitterblossom.

Second game I mulliganed again. Neither of us ever cast a Bitterblossom, but my Scion got Peppersmoked, so Brett was up a few cards on me. I didn’t see the long game really favoring me as his hand was full, so I went on the offensive. At some point, he had six mana and tapped his Mutavault and another land to cast a Nameless Inversion, leaving up three Islands and a Sunken Ruins. He had an untapped Sower of Temptation to my Sower and Mutavault that could possibly attack. It’s very obvious to me that he has Cryptic Command and intends to bounce his Sower with damage on the stack, but there’s really nothing I can do as that Command beats me anyway.

I draw a Sower on my turn, but I’m 100% certain he has the Cryptic, as him tapping Mutavault is basically an invitation to attack. I decide that it would be better for him to bounce his Sower and have me Sower his Sower after he replays it. I attack and sure enough, he Cryptics his Sower after blocking my Mutavault. Instead of re-casting his Sower, he proudly taps six mana and announces Oona. I Sower it and attack him to one. Now he replays his Sower and passes with four mana open. I have three attackers to his two blockers, so he simply has to make one token with Oona to make my attack terrible. I feel like that is my chance to win, so I start my turn with the intention of making that play. I draw a Cryptic Command to make it a moot point, and tap his guys after he Oonas me.

He calls me lucky and I guess I can’t deny it, although to be fair maybe I’m unlucky to be mulliganing and having such bad draws in the first place.

McCleaf Thoughtseizes me twice early after I mulligan which basically takes all the wind out of my sails. This game quickly appears similar to the second game, as he’s outlanding me and I don’t have any other choice except to go aggressive with only triple Mutavault and Secluded Glen for mana. I get him down to ten or so before he finds removal and then a Bitterblossom to start killing me with.

However, Blue sources start showing up and I Sower a token to stop the bleeding. My Cryptic Command then taps his team. My second Cryptic (with a third in reserve in case he had anything) allows the Sower and token to finish him off. He shows me his hand of the third and fourth Thoughtseize, another Bitterblossom, and a couple lands. Then he calls me lucky.

Sixth round I play against another Faerie mirror. We split the first two games. Game 3 I keep Bitterblossom, Scion, and lands with the rationale that he has to have a turn 1 Thoughtseize to make that hand bad. Naturally he does, but I rip another Blossom. He plays his own, but we actually have a real game on our hands. He misses his fourth land drop, and is very excited but also disappointed when his next draw step gives him a Vivid Creek. He plays it, but then decides that he can get in for some damage. I take that opportunity to Cryptic his team and bounce his only Mutavault. On my turn I play my sixth land and attack with my Mutavault and some tokens.

That error basically costs him, as next turn I’m able to Cryptic his team and bounce a land again, keeping him off Cryptic mana of his own. He was just too far behind to come back at that point.

If he would have shown some patience and declared his attack before he played his land, there is no way I would have tapped his guys and bounced his Mutavault, as he could simply replay it. If I Cryptic and tap his guys in his attack phase, he can play his land afterwards. I certainly won’t Cryptic again on my turn to put him off four mana because that would be wasting a Command, and then he gets to untap on his turn with four mana up. At that point, he will have some sort of defense against my Commands and will most likely make the game go longer.

I intentionally drew round 7 and 8. The Top 8 consisted of five Fae decks, a Merfolk, a G/w/b Ramp deck, and Andrew Underwood‘s “Reaper King” deck. Obviously all of those decks lost to Faeries in Top 8.

My Top 8 match was pretty easy. He mulligans and we both start with Bitterblossoms. He misses his third land drop once, then ramps up to four, while I miss my fourth land drop twice, but I’m able to function after that. Thanks to my quad Spellstutter draw, I am able to play a spell and defend it in the same turn while he is stuck at playing one spell a turn. I end up with more 1/1s in play than him and am able to keep trading creatures while forcing through some damage each turn.

Second game he mulligans to five while I take a mulligan myself. Neither of us has a Bitterblossom and the game is largely just draw-go. When he draws into a second Mutavault, he decides to fire them both up and tries to attack. I remind him that one of them is summoning sick. At his end of turn I play a Scion which he tries to Invert. I Stutter it and he can no longer Stutter back because of his summoning sick Mutavault. On my turn I play a second Scion and later Sower his Scion.

I’m up against another mirror in the Top 4, but it’s hardly a match at all. First game I win the roll and mulligan to four. My first hand was the typical “do nothing in the mirror” hand, with a Scion, Mistbind, and a removal spell. The second was a one-lander with nothing good. The third was Broken Ambitions, Scion, and three colorless lands, which I would probably mulligan even if the lands were good. My opponent has the nuts: turn 1 Thoughtseize my Scion leaving me with three lands, turn 2 Blossom, turn 3 and 4 Spellstutters.

Second game I mulligan another one of the do-nothing hands, and my second hand is a strange one. It was Reflecting Pool, Wispmare, two Bitterblossoms, Firespout, and Scion of Oona. Now this might seem like an auto mulligan to almost all of you. However, I am trained in the art of mulliganing by Mark Herberholz himself. Let me tell you that I am certain this is exactly the type of hand Heezy wants to mulligan into. Not only do you have protection from Thoughtseize as you have two Bitterblossoms, but you have a Wispmare for theirs, a Firespout to clear out their side if drawing a land takes long enough for them to assemble an army, and a Scion to win the token war. Almost any land turns on your Reflecting Pool. There is almost no way that the odds of me drawing a better five card are greater than the odds of me simply drawing one land in a couple of turns.

Obviously, my opponent has the nuts again. He Thoughtseizes one of my Blossoms, plays his own while I miss my second land drop, and counters all of my spells for the rest of the game.

So I finish in third/fourth. Ultimately, a PTQ is a winner take all tournament, so I can’t be anything except disappointed. I was fairly pleased with the deck. Firespout straight up won me a match, although if my manabase wasn’t kind of crappy, I might have won the game 2 instead of needing Firespout to win game 3.

Wispmare defended me from Bitterblossoms well, but it’s not the perfect answer. Thoughtseize (should they be blessed enough to draw their own perfect mana) and Scion both pose problems for Wispmare, so be careful.

I have a PTQ in Springfield this weekend, and this is what I am thinking of running at the moment:

Wish me luck!