Feature Article – Winning the StarCityGames.com Standard Opens

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Wednesday, May 21st – At the recent StarCityGames.com Mega-Magic Weekend, the real winner was the Faeries deck. After multiple rounds of grueling swiss and single elimination competition, Faeries met in the finals of both tournaments. The pilot of the winning deck each time? Alex Bertoncini. Today he shares his story, alongside invaluable advice on how to get the most from the Fae…

So, how about those Faeries!

The Magic community has very different tastes on what most would agree to be the best deck in the current Standard environment.

Are faeries:




Whatever viewpoint one may have towards faeries, they are here and will most likely not be going away anytime soon.

The points that I will discuss in this article pertain to why faeries are so good, how to play the faerie mirror match, and my experiences at the Star City Games Standard Opens, along with my maindeck choices, and my sideboard strategies. I will also give a brief tournament report describing what I played and how I sideboarded over the weekend. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a deeper analysis of faeries, and while I’m not the best writer around, I hope you find this article a valuable tool.

At this point many of you are probably wondering just who on earth I am. I’m seventeen-year-old Magic player from New York that none of you have ever heard of. The story of my winning back-to-back Star City Games Standard Opens is not one of skill or intellectual merit on the part of a player, but of the power and persistence of a deck people just don’t enjoy playing against. And for good reason.

What is it about the faerie deck that makes it so irritable? According to Rei Nakazawa’s September 10 article detailing the characteristics of the various creatures of Lorwyn, “The faeries are whimsical, mischievous, vain, and seen as nuisances by most of the other Lorwyn races.” There, perfectly stated. The Lorwyn development team did an outstanding job at creating cards and mechanics that match the “flavor” of the game. As far as faeries go, the potential to play nearly all of the creatures at instant speed, along with the constant threat of countermagic, makes them quite the annoying and “mischievous” deck.

However, the faeries deck is not just annoying. The. Deck. Is. Good. It is easily the best deck in the Standard format and it may just be a complete waste of time trying to argue otherwise. Why? Why are faeries so good? How is it that a deck full of 1/1s and 2/1s can simply dominate an entire format? The answer to that question lies within the secret of which qualities make the deck tick. This deck gains its seeming invulnerability through a combination of synergy, evasion and the ability to race, efficient spells, as well as immunity to hate.

How is the synergy of the faerie deck unique when compared to other decks in Standard? Imperious Perfect works perfectly fine with Wilt-Leaf Liege, and Stonybrook Banneret works well with Sage’s Dousing. The trick is the instant speed answers and threats that make the deck versatile and malleable to the point which you can win with either Bitterblossom tokens, with Scion of Oona, or chaining together upkeep Mistbind Cliques for “Time Walk” of a sort. Faeries play as a control deck with aggro elements, yet, in my opinion, the deck is neither. If the deck starts off with a turn 2 Bitterblossom followed by a Scion of Oona, all it takes are a few well-timed Spellstutter Sprites and Rune Snags to win the game. Synergy between the faeries along with the unpredicted intricacies that involve flash creatures goes far deeper. I am not a professional Magic player and I don’t claim to be fully enlightened when it comes to faeries… however, if there is one thing I have learned by playing so much with the deck, it is that playing well by combining the utilities of multiple cards can prove to be rewarding to you and overwhelming to the opponent. That is the key to the faerie deck. Nobody is perfect and nobody can see every intricate play, but the closer you are to noticing the correct Mistbind Clique targets and how to use your Spellstutter Sprites and man-lands, the better your chances are of doing well are. DUH. Plays like championing a Spellstutter Sprite with a Mistbind Clique should make your opponent play differently. Most view this play as merely a good payoff. A 4/4 flier for four replacing a 1/1 that has already done its job, while tapping out some lands to boot, can be viewed as an obvious play or basic concept. However, that opponent can be potentially punished by finding their Cloudthresher or Squall Line being countered by a well-timed Terror on the Clique.

The next aspect that makes the faerie deck so viable seems simple enough to grasp. Flying. So what? All of you know that faeries can fly and that they are good at racing.
The fact is that faeries are the best deck in the format at racing. Some of you may say “but what about the Red decks with massive burn spells and quick creatures, or the elf and merfolk decks which create a lot of dudes and play eight lords and swing for ten damage or more at a time?” This is a different type of racing. Faeries will kill you given enough time. This is not a hypothesis or a simple conjecture, but a cold, hard FACT. It isn’t the fact that faeries will win over a period of time, but that they can win in such a short amount of time. The key aspects in racing an opponent to gain a life advantage include attacking with the knowledge that either you will get some damage in or force your opponent to make an unwanted trade that will overall benefit your board position. This is known as chump blocking. The faeries’ ability to evade chump blockers may not seem like a big deal, but when racing against an “unstoppable” army, your opponent won’t like the fact that the only way he’s going to beat you is by taking you to zero life before your relatively unblockable army of dorks grind him into the dirt. Here, the evasion is immensely advantageous. This fact is virtually invalid in the mirror match, but that is something that will require a far more in-depth analysis later on.

Another key point to consider about faeries is that the spells in the deck are highly efficient, or in other words, serve duals purposes and can be called to do various tasks varying on the situation. Take Pestermite. He can be used to gain an advantage by slowing down the opponent’s board development early on by tapping a land and providing the faeries player with a valuable source for racing; a 2/1 flier. He can also be played to stall an opponent’s large ground creature by tapping it in the mid or late game if the life totals are your focus. Don’t forget he can also serve as a chump blocker or a combat trick to untap a larger faerie like Mistbind Clique out of nowhere. Pestermite can be used when the need arises to play multiple spells in one turn, such as when you’ve three lands in play, but want to play a creature and suspend an Ancestral Vision. A classic play is your opponent trying to resolve multiple two-drops in one turn on turn 4. If you have four lands in play, you can cast a Pestermite choosing to untap a land and use that mana to make a Spellstutter Sprite to counter their two-mana spell. This may not seem like a big deal, especially if they play a better two-drop directly afterwards, but the faerie player just got two creatures in play, countering a spell along the way, when they had nothing previously. The best part is that now it’s your turn to untap and let the mayhem continue. The point I’m trying to make is not to sell you on the uses of Pestermite, but to demonstrate that one must not approach faeries as a typical deck that follows the normal conventions of Magic. Pestermite is just one example of how there are multiple purposes to particular cards in the faerie deck, whereas other decks are in very short supply of such resources. For instance, Kitchen Finks gains life and provides you with a reusable creature. That’s it. Sure, it’s a good card and all, but when using or combating a Kitchen Finks, there are only a limited number of ways to approach the situation. Other examples of the efficiency of faeries include Mistbind Clique as a way to save a faerie or Time Talk an opponent, Scion of Oona to serve as an Overrun or an Avoid Fate, or Cryptic Command for infinite possibilities.

A last note concerning the reasons for the power of the little flying critters you love to hate is their immunity to such hate. “Immunity to hate, you say? Ha!” Yes, immunity to hate. One power of a great deck is the ability to lure the opposing player into a false sense of security about their sideboard or gameplan and then crush utterly them out of nowhere. The ridiculous power of the faerie deck can be compared to that of the popular dredge deck from Extended season. Faeries is similar, not in the two-turn-kill aspect but in the ignorance that some players displayed by believing that simply by jamming their sideboards full of Leyline of the Void and Tormod’s Crypt they were immune to the graveyard-based powerhouse. They were wrong. Sure, cards like Leyline, Gaddock Teeg, Tormod’s Crypt, and Extirpate proved troublesome and annoying for the dredge players, but that was not deterrent enough. Dredge players adapted to the problem they faced with cards like Chain of Vapor and Pithing Needle to deal with these hassles, and although the dredge decks lost popularity due to the overabundance of sideboard hate, the deck persevered and won Mateusz Kope Grand Prix: Vienna. Faeries, on the other hand, are far superior to dredge. Here are three scenarios demonstrating why.

Scenario 1: Suppose the player playing against dredge doesn’t draw his useful sideboard tech against the dredge player. Most likely, he will lose to the very much overpowered deck. This was the reason why dredge won most of its game 1s.

Scenario 2: Suppose that the opposing player draws his Leyline of the Void or Yixlid Jailer and that the dredge player draws nothing to remove said cards. The dredge player will most likely lose due to the potential of these cards to completely shut down the dredge mechanic.

Scenario 3: Suppose that the player who is playing against dredge draws his Leyline of the Void or his Yixlid Jailer and that the dredge player draws his Chain of Vapor. If all goes according to plan and the Leyline or Jailer is successfully dealt with, the dredge player will likely proceed to winning the game by doing the same things that made him win in the first scenario where the opponent had not drawn any of his dredge hate.

What does that have to do with faeries? Simple. Faeries can emerge victorious from all three of those scenarios when applied to the relative format. Let me explain. The faerie deck is the best deck in the format. Pretty much everyone knows it, and as such, let’s assume that, unhindered, an average draw from faeries automatically beats an average draw from just about any other deck. That’s scenario 1 for you… now onto the second scenario. Suppose that your opponent sideboards in cards like Cloudthresher and Squall Line to better equip themselves with the tools they need to defeat you. Don’t get me wrong, these cards are excellent ways of dealing with faeries, and can often win the anti-faerie player the game if timed properly. However, unlike the case with the dredge deck, such cards do not completely hose the faerie deck or spell “game over” in any way after resolving. Provided that the anti-faerie player manages to resolve a Cloudthresher successfully wiping out the entire faerie platoon, it is still not impossible, or even very difficult, for the faerie deck to recuperate. Unlike an unsolved Leyline of the Void versus dredge, a resolved Cloudthresher, Firespout, Squall Line, or Sulfurous Blast against a faerie deck only gives the opponent some breathing time and perhaps a turn or two in which they can try to stabilize. Resolving one of the mentioned spells only makes the faerie deck have to apply itself more and play defensively. After all, your Bitterblossom will still continue to generate tokens and you can still rely on some of the eight man-lands which most likely survived. The third scenario is mostly irrelevant concerning faeries due to the fact that if such a card existed like “counter target Cloudthresher, Squall Line, Firespout, Pyroclasm, Hurricane, Sulfurous Blast, or any other futile attempt to prove your ability to beat faeries,” I wouldn’t play it. There are cards that are good against faeries (and no, Raking Canopy is not one of them), but they are not nearly good enough to force me to play differently around them.

Now, onto the mirror match.

I’ve had many players come up to me, both in person and on forums, asking me about my insights to faerie decks. While I’m sure that not all of my assertions are true I am comfortable enough with at least one basic concept regarding faeries, and that is the dreaded mirror match. If not about a battle of luck or skill, the faerie mirror match is about a test to determine the player with the most mental stamina and ability to endure long, grueling slugfests of the little pests. Why do I say this? Perhaps I am a little biased. After all, during the Star City Games $2,000 Open, I did have to play 8 faerie mirror matches! No joke. Eight of the nine rounds I played were the faerie mirror match. I know that faeries were popular, but seriously… If I appeared to be a little exhausted, can you blame me? I asked many, many players, from Jim Davis to Sean McKeown to Brett Blackman (all of whom had to play multiple faerie mirror matches) how they felt about the mirror match, and none of them displayed any fond feelings towards it. I know I wasn’t the best faerie player in the room, but combined with some luck, I felt a little more optimistic about the match-up that was inevitable. Whether you like it or not, as a faerie player, you must have respect and understanding for the mirror match because you will have to play it eventually. At one point, I was at a table of eight players, seven of whom were playing the faerie deck (a wise decision). If you take nothing else from my discussion on the mirror match, take that it is not just luck, skill, or preparation that will help you win the mirror match, but a healthy combination of the three.

In my opinion, the faerie mirror is an art form. As a reader, you’re welcome to interpret that as you please. The mirror is abstract and has no definitive shape or form, nothing that makes it absolutely obscure or finite. One’s gameplan must be determined early depending on the opening hands of both players. No matter how much you want to be the aggressor or on defense, you must always consider both players’ opening hands. I know many players out there have their own notions and ideas about the mirror match, and many of them are correct. For example, the number one reason why people do not enjoy playing the mirror match is the luck dependency on who can resolve a turn 2 Bitterblossom or suspend a turn 1 Ancestral Visions on the play. This is absolutely the truth. I’d say that 75% of the time the person who can get the turn 2 Bitterblossom out (barring extreme mana flood or mana screw) will win the game. It’s unfortunate, but true. It is almost exclusively that for this reason the faerie decks almost universally sideboard Thoughtseize in for the mirror match, to deny the opponent their second turn Bitterblossom. However, there are many more aspects to the mirror match than this, or I wouldn’t be wasting my time digressing on the subject. What about when neither player gets a Bitterblossom? When to attack and when to block, when to chump block or make unfavorable trades to accumulate damage, when to tap out, when to activate manlands, when to race, when to be reserved, being proactive and reactive, when to hold a counterspell and when to use it, and when and how to bluff are all things that must be considered in all of Magic, but most importantly in the faerie mirror. I am by no means an expert on these subjects, but based on the total number of mirror matches I did in one weekend, (though I have been playing the deck far longer, I assure you) I feel comfortable with sharing my insights with you on how to tackle such an awkward yet intriguing mirror match.

First up are the opening hands. I have kept my fair share of sketchy opening hands either to be rewarded immensely by lucksacing my way to victory or to the point of embarrassment when my opponent reveals the contents of my hand with their turn 1 Thoughtseize. When looking for the ideal hand, you want to keep at least three lands, a faerie, a removal spell, and two other cards. Multiple man-lands are good, especially if you’re on the play, but you shouldn’t usually keep a double Mutavault hand unless there are two other lands. The rules change if you have either a Bitterblossom or an Ancestral Vision. In the faerie deck, Bitterblossom is the king, and Vision is the queen. Period. Keeping a two-land hand containing either of these cards is fine, seeing as the deck plays 25 lands. If your opening hand contains a Bitterblossom (or two!), an Ancestral Vision, a Secluded Glen, a Faerie Conclave or Mutavault, a Terror or Sower for removal, a Cryptic Command or Rune Snag as counter backup, and another land, your opponent has basically received a game loss. The best late game plan for the mirror is chaining Mistbind Cliques at the end of their turn and leaving Spellstutter Sprites for backup. The die role is surprisingly irrelevant in the mirror. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be happy playing first every time, but the player on the draw does not have a huge disadvantage just because the opponent can resolve a Bitterblossom before they can. Don’t forget, if your opponent plays a turn 2 Bitterblossom against you, that gives you the opportunity to do the same! So if you’re losing a lot of faerie mirror matches, don’t blame it on the die roll, but on a combination of play experience, opening hands, and luck.

Another important note about the mirror is remembering that your opponent is intelligent and capable (remember, they are playing faeries). If your opponent is brainless, you have only won half the battle because they are also playing the same valuable resources against you. If the opponent is a decent player, then you have your work cut out for you. It all comes down to experience, and the person with more experience in the faerie mirror already has a huge edge. Sure, your opponent starting off with a turn 1 Ancestral Vision followed by a turn 2 Bitterblossom is going to be rough no matter how good you are, but you must learn to adapt in the mirror as though it were a great war. Look at each turn in the mirror match as a battle, and the game as a war. In the unfortunate case your opponent goes turn 1 Visions, turn 2 Bitterblossom, you must act as if you have just lost the first two battles. There is much more for you to do to redeem yourself, and the tide of war can change in an instant. You must be able to outmaneuver your opponent, be able to utilize your resources in a way that makes your plays optimal, and try to gain an edge on the opponent. Seems like basic Magic, doesn’t it? It is. Just apply it.

With Pro: Tour Hollywood coming up, the higher caliber players are looking to play with a deck that is powerful and can win. Aren’t we all? Obviously, faeries come to mind, primarily. It is (rightfully) being compared to the Affinity deck from the days of Mirrodin, and there are calls of desperation for the banning of Bitterblossom. While I’m not in a position to comment on this plea, I will say that the card is absurd and that Wizards should consider the future of this card further.

Continuing the topic of the faerie mirror match, knowing when to apply your removal and counterspells is crucial. This is the most important part of the great mirror match war, and if you think that the person who’s lucky enough to get a turn-two Bitterblossom is automatically the winner of the game, (though it surely helps) you need to look deeper into the mirror. “Damn, that lucksack just got a turn 2 Bitterblossom!” is the ignorant approach. “What is my gameplan for overcoming that turn 2 Bitterblossom” is the first step towards winning the game. As far as counterspells are concerned, in the mirror they are your second line of defense. Do not waste your Spellstutter Sprites and Rune Snags on cards that can simply be Terrored or taken with Sower of Temptation if you have such cards in hand.

Here’s a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, on the necessity of countering a spell in a mirror match between two identical copies of my deck. (Note: An “n/a” means that it is too highly dependent on the situation to give a proper evaluation)

Bitterblossom — 12
Ancestral Vision – 9
Spellstutter Sprite – 5
Terror – 5
Pestermite – 3
Sower of Temptation – N/A
Scion of Oona – 7
Mistbind Clique – 7
Rune Snag – N/A
Cryptic Command – 7

As far as removal spells are concerned, they are the first line in the faeries’ defense. Compared to counterspells, they are far more restrictive as to what they can deal with. There are two types of maindeck removal spells in my decklist; Terror and Sower of Temptation. Here is a similar scale.

Bitterblossom tokens – 2
Spellstutter Sprite – 3
Pestermite – 3
Sower of Temptation – 7
Scion of Oona – 8
Mistbind Clique – 7

While these numbers aren’t set in stone and they are also highly dependent on the current state of the game, they serve as a rough estimate for those of you who are not too familiar with faeries to get an idea of how to use your counter and removal spells optimally.

The final note on the mirror concerns sideboarding. First and foremost, you must bring in no less than four Thoughtseize. If you don’t play four in the sideboard, find room immediately. Bring them in game 2 and 3 regardless of whether you are playing or drawing first. I don’t care if you’re on the play and have the ability to Rune Snag their turn 2 Bitterblossom instead. I want to play my own Bitterblossom turn 2, as opposed to leaving mana open for Rune Snag, and having a turn 1 Thoughtseize sure helps. I don’t’ know about you, but I get a gut-wrenching feeling when someone says “Land, go; land, Bitterblossom, go” because now I have to do work. To maximize my chances in any game to stop such a spell from resolving, I’m inclined to leave the Thoughtseizes in. You also want extra point removal to come in against your opponent’s Sowers and Scions. If they’ve already boarded out their Scions, then you are already going to have an easier time winning because, Pendelhaven aside, the player with 2/2 fliers beats the player with 1/1 fliers. Duh! I don’t like Fledgling Mawcor because it is a removal spells that dies to removal spells before it can do any removing. It can also be countered very easily by Spellstutter Sprite as a morph. Nameless Inversion is a card that is excellent in the mirror, but Slaughter Pact, in my opinion, is more versatile. Nameless Inversion can’t kill an opposing Mistbind Clique, nor can it be cast while you’re tapped out. While tapping out is never usually good in the mid to late game (unless for a well placed Sower of Temptation), if you find the need to do so, Slaughter Pact serves as a good trump card to deal with a pesky Scion of Oona or reduce a faerie to null a Spellstutter Sprite. It also plays well against Magus of the Moon, a popular card in the Red decks due to its massive crippling effect against faeries and other decks. If you have the mana up at the time, Nameless Inversion can deal with the Magus as well, but Slaughter Pact is like the credit card against the dreaded Blood Moon creature when you’re out of cash. It allows for you to buy now and pay later, and when you play no basic Swamps, you’ll be happy you have credit. The only downside to Slaughter Pact is the fact that it can tap you out the turn after, which is a little risky to say the least.

Long story short, my general sideboarding strategy against faeries:

On the play:

Out: 2 Mistbind Clique, 1 Cryptic Command, 2 Pestermite, 1 Sower of Temptation
In: 4 Thoughtseize, 2 Slaughter Pact

On the draw:

Out: 3 Sower of Temptation, 2 Pestermite, 1 Cryptic Command
In: 4 Thoughtseize, 2 Slaughter Pact

In my experience with faeries, and I’ve been playing with them since before I won the New York City Championship back in April, I’ve learned that too many four-drops are detrimental. I agree with many players out there that Cryptic Command is one of the best cards in Standard. Aside from Ancestral Visions, I believe that Cryptic Command is the best Blue spell in Standard without a doubt. So why, then, do I only play three of them maindeck, and furthermore, sideboard an additional one out for the mirror? I find that they are too clunky. In the mirror match, when you counter the opponent’s spell you do more than set them back a card and a turn… you change their gameplan. If you want to go aggressive with Scion of Oona and an army of Bitterblossom tokens and all of the sudden, your Scion of Oona gets countered, now what? If your opponent then proceeds to play their own Scion of Oona and attack you relentlessly with Mutavaults and Faerie Conclaves, now, in the blink of an eye, you are on the defensive. This is why I want to guarantee the resolution of my counterspells and removal spells. In order to do this, I need to cut some of the more mana-intensive cards like Cryptic Command and play more aggressive cards like Rune Snag and Spellstutter Sprite. I don’t want to be in the situation where I go to counter my opponent’s turn 4 Bitterblossom with my Cryptic Command only to have my Command Rune Snagged!

Cryptic Command was a card that I received a lot of criticism about after my decklist became known, and I still probably won’t hear the end of it. A card I received heat about prior to the tournament, and even during, was the Sower of Temptation maindeck. This card is not as bad as you may think. It provides card advantage in a unique way, and my only regret about the card, besides it not having flash (can you imagine!), is that it cannot take possession of a Bitterblossom. Sad times. However, it is extremely powerful and not to be underestimated. Although it dies to virtually every removal spell in the format, if left unanswered, the three-for-one advantage can win games on the spot. I enjoy taking this risk and the payoff has been huge. Don’t forget that you also have countermagic and Scion of Oona backup to protect the Sower. Best case scenario: I win with the utter card advantage of the Sower. Worst case scenario: They manage to have the removal spell for the Sower and then I one-for-one them while killing off a removal spell that they can’t use now on my Scion of Oona. If you’ve never felt the satisfaction of stealing a Scion of Oona with a Sower of Temptation, then I suggest you go out and live a little. The number of times I’ve cast Sower of Temptation only to get it killed on the spot have been outnumbered and outclassed by the number of times it has proved useful to me and my army of flying men. The temptation got to me. Maybe I’m just a greedy guy.

As far as changes to the deck go, the only change I would make to this deck would be to the landbase. I really like Gerry Thompson idea of two Pendelhavens as they have proved to be very handy in the mirror match. Maybe I would take out a Faerie Conclave and replace it with a second Pendelhaven, but I would have to test this first.

That being said, I must say that all of my card evaluations may not be entirely correct and you may not completely agree with me, but I have tried to give you readers the best possible information I can regarding what I have learned with my experiences with faeries. Much thought and deliberation went into making the deck choices I did, and although many may disagree with them, I look forward to the chance to defend each decision I made.

To wrap up this long article, which I hope you have found informative if nothing else, I would like to give you a brief overview of the weekend and the match-ups I played in the two Opens.

Day 1 – The $5,000 Open – 9 rounds of Swiss cut to Top 8

Round 1 – Terrence Topolnicki

On the six-and-a-half-hour car ride down to Virginia from Manhattan, I had discussed with my car mates the bad matchups for faeries and decks that I didn’t wish to see in abundance. One of the bad matchups I had not looked forward to in testing was Red Deck Wins and other aggro Red variants. They weren’t unbeatable for faeries, but I did not enjoy the matchup regardless. When my round 1 opponent went turn 1 Mountain, suspend Greater Gargadon, I cursed the pairing gods and thought “It’s going to be a long day.” It turned out that he was not playing Red Deck Wins or a Mono-Red Aggro deck, but Black-Red Goblins instead. What a relief. Although it was a deck I was not too familiar with as I did not do sufficient testing against it, I was fairly confident that I could beat a Red deck that relied on creatures instead of burn spells to win. I won that match relatively easily which involved me using my Scion of Oona (who took one for the team inevitably) to fizzle my opponent’s Incinerates, and Terroring (terrorizing?) his Gargadon. My sideboarding was as follows:

Out: 3 Sower of Temptation
In: 3 Damnation


Round 2 – Joe Gouge

My round 2 opponent was playing another deck that I had virtually no testing against, Mono-Black control. Wow. Another relatively less-known deck that I wasn’t entirely sure about my chances. His deck was full of cards like Korlash, Heir to Blackblade; Beseech the Queen; and the number one card in the format, Bitterblossom. Yikes! In game 1 he played a turn 2 Bitterblossom and I got a little nervous. Just because faeries play Bitterblossom doesn’t mean that I am any better equipped to deal with one. Despite a very close game 1, I proceeded to win game 2 in a breeze. For sideboarding:

Out: 3 Terror, 1 Sower of Temptation
In: 4 Thoughtseize


Round 3 – Alex S. Majlaton

For round 3, I finally had to play a familiar deck: the mirror match. Though it was my only mirror match of the Swiss rounds that day, the faerie-on-faerie action was still grueling and intense. I had also recognized my opponent’s name from somewhere, and discovered that he was qualified for Pro Tour Hollywood on rating. Against Faeries:

Out: 2 Mistbind Clique, 1 Cryptic Command, 2 Pestermite, 1 Sower of Temptation
In: 2 Peppersmoke, 4 Thoughtseize


Round 4 – John Winters

My round 3 opponent was playing Blue-White Wizards, as became evident by his turn 3 wizard-cycled Vedalken Aethermage searching for Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. In my testing against Kyle Sanchez Wizard deck, it turned out that a resolved Teferi could prove to be quite problematic for the faeries deck. I made an extra effort as to not let the Mage of Zhalfir resolve against me, and resolve it did not. In game 2, he was low on life and at the end of my turn he searched for an Arbiter of Knollridge, which upon resolving would put him at a comfortable sixteen or so life. With no cards in my hand with which to counter the Arbiter and with and nine lands in play, I opted to mana-burn myself for nine (also at the end of my turn) to foil his attempts to gain loads of life from the Arbiter. At this point, he conceded in the face of the incoming faerie army. He noted that I was the only player who had mana-burned himself intentionally against him.

Out: 2 Pestermite, 1 Mistbind Clique, 1 Sower of Temptation
In: 4 Thoughtseize


Round 5 – Josh L. Cope

For round 5 I had to play against the Red-Green Big Mana deck. Sporting cards like Cloudthresher and Firespout I knew that I had to approach this matchup with extra caution. One of these spells resolving wouldn’t necessarily be game over, but it wouldn’t hurt to play around such cards accordingly to affirm my grasp on the game. Overall, this match was relatively uneventful. In one game he resolved a Cloudthresher and a Firespout, from which I managed to bounce back with the MVP Bitterblossom and Scion of Oona.

Out: 1 Sower of Temptation, 2 Pestermite, 1 Mistbind Clique
In: 4 Thoughtseize


Round 6 – Brian Schneider

In round 6, I played against Red Deck Wins, in my opinion my worst matchup. I have had recent success at beating Red Deck Wins, but still, I did not enjoy this matchup at all. I remember him starting off with quick beats in the form of Mogg Fanatic and Tattermunge Maniac which were both eventually blocked by Bitterblossom tokens. From there he ran out of gas, and I stabilized at six life. In game 2, I recall a turn 2 Vexing Shusher, which proved problematic as I was holding two Cryptic Commands… I Terrored it later in the game. All the while he had a Spiteful Visions, which upon first glance appeared like it would benefit me despite the life loss. It actually turned out to be a hindrance rather than a help. I figured if I got to draw more cards I could win, but that wasn’t the case when he got a free Shock every turn and drew extra burn spells to boot. I was able to Cryptic Command it and then counter it with Rune Snag, to deal with it for good before it was able to utterly destroy me.

Out: 3 Sower of Temptation, 1 Mistbind Clique
In: 4 Bottle Gnomes (thanks to my car mates for this one)


Round 7 – Daniel Samson

This would have been the last round I needed to win before drawing myself into Top 8, but my opponent proved to be quite resilient indeed. I played Mono-Green Elves this round featuring goodies like Shield of the Oversoul and Overrun. Game 1 I got smashed by elves. Game 2 he got smashed by faeries (despite a turn 4 Oversoul of Dusk). Game 3 was the eventful game. He mulliganed down to five on the play and I mulliganed my opening seven into a six-card card containing a turn 2 Bitterblossom. It seemed good. I lost. He played a turn 2 Wren’s Run Vanquisher, turn 3 Kitchen Finks, turn 4 Wilt-Leaf Liege (makes guys huge), and turn 5 Imperious Perfect (makes guys huger)! It came down to late-game racing, and in the end, his elf army outraced my dual Bitterblossoms and he emerged victorious. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to avenge my defeat in the Top 8 as he was defeated by Brett Blackman’s faerie deck in the Top 4.

Out: 1 Pestermite, 4 Rune Snag
In: 2 Slaughter Pact, 3 Damnation


Round 8 – Brian Wagaman

Round 8 was my final chance to make Top 8. I blew it the previous round against what I thought would be an easy matchup, and the next round just showed how flawed the logic I thought was so conventional. I had to play another nightmare matchup of Mono-Red Burn, and yet again I emerged victorious. The more and more I play the matchup, the better I feel I can grasp its intricacies. It actually is not an abysmal deck for me to get paired up against. I did not get “the nuts” hands against him, and his hands were relatively good for a Red deck. Game 1 is always the closest, and game 2 is usually a blowout with me winning the game still around 12 to 16 life. If I’ve learned nothing else from playing so many Red decks, it’s not to take out Bitterblossom, no matter what! It’s irrelevant how creature-based or burn-based the Red deck is. Bitterblossom is just insane in this matchup regardless.

Out: 3 Sower of Temptation, 1 Mistbind Clique
In: 4 Bottle Gnomes


Round 9 – Scott A. Jeltima

After some quick math courtesy of Sean McKeown, I discovered that I could draw with Scott into Top 8. We wished each other luck and intentionally drew. Whew.

Final Record for the Swiss:


I took a breather and got ready for Top 8. Meanwhile the friends that drove me down to Virginia, whom had already been eliminated, were busy drafting with my Cube which I had lugged around all day.

Top 8

Quarterfinals – Brian N. Kelly

This round didn’t start off well for me as I received a game-loss right off the bat for a misregistered decklist. Apparently, I had misregistered the Damnations in my sideboard as Terrors making the grand total of six Terrors in my deck! Nice deck, huh? As soon as I corrected this error, we were off to game 2. I was on the play for this game, and after a flurry of counterspells for his land destruction, I overran him with faeries. Game 3 saw Brian mulligan down to five on the play while I mulliganed once down to six. He played a turn 1 Birds of Paradise, a turn 2 Treetop Village and Wall of Roots, and a turn 3 Deus of Calamity. Nice Deck. I only won that game because I had Slaughter Pact for the Deus and I left a Terror in hand for any later Magus of the Moon shenanigans. He drew no more gas and I eventually drew a Bitterblossom and won. I boarded in Thoughtseize for this matchup to make extra sure he did not resolve a Magus of the Moon, because that card just wrecks me like nothing else.

Out: 1 Cryptic Command, 3 Sower of Temptation, 2 Pestermite
In: 2 Slaughter Pact, 4 Thoughtseize

Semifinals – Scott A. Jeltima

I think that this article might be running too long, and I’m sure you’re probably getting tired of my ranting by now. Luckily, this game is on the Magic Show. If you wish to see this game you can view the entire match there. For sideboarding:

Out: 4 Ancestral Visions (this was a mistake even though he had Riftsweeper), 1 Sower of Temptation
In: 3 Damnation, 2 Slaughter Pact (especially for Gaddock Teeg)

Finals – Brett Blackman

Now there was a name I was familiar with. JSS star Brett Blackman, also a pretty cool guy, was someone whose name I recognized as soon as I heard it. He was already qualified for Nationals and Pro Tour: Hollywood on rating, and I knew I had my work cut out for me. This match was pretty intense, and it all came down to who cracked first. In the third game, it looked like Brett had me as I was low on life, creature-less, and staring down an army of Mutavaults and Scion of Oona. He had four mana open on his side and suspended an Ancestral Visions, leaving himself with enough mana to activate one of his two Mutavaults on my turn and still have the mana to cast Spellstutter Sprite for a total faerie count of three. On my “last” turn to shift the game in my favor, I cast Sower of Temptation, despite the common knowledge that they are not optimal in the mirror match, targeting his Scion of Oona, and because he had left himself in the position where Spellstutter Sprite would have only been able to counter a spell with casting cost three, he was unable to counter the Sower. I took his Scion of Oona and proceeded to win the game from there. Now, I don’t think I’m in any position to argue with Brett, but he also agreed that it was wrong to have suspended the Ancestral Visions there because if he hadn’t the game would have ended long before it was able to resolve. I sideboarded a little differently against Brett, and it apparently paid off. I tried a more aggressive route against him, cutting ALL my Cryptic Commands in exchange for more aggressive cards, hoping to beat him down. I really disliked the idea of having my Cryptic Commands Rune Snagged, and having Brett up on tempo.

Out: 3 Cryptic Commands (a little risky), 2 Mistbind Clique, 2 Pestermite, 1 Sower of Temptation
In: 2 Slaughter Pact, 4 Thoughtseize, 2 Peppersmoke

So that’s how I won day 1, and unfortunately my interviews with Evan Erwin had to be cut due to poor audio quality.

Day 2 – The $2,000 Open – 7 rounds of Swiss cut to Top 8

This day was a lot less exciting. I’m will not be covering rounds 1 through 6, as they were ALL mirror matches. *Sigh*. I drew in round 7 with a record of 5-1-1 to lock myself into Top 8. I will go over the Top 8 matches, seeing as they were slightly more interesting.

Quarterfinals – Gerry Thompson

Gerry was playing with his unique faerie build that was, to say the least, very interesting. He cut a number of his creatures like Pestermite and replaced them in favor of more removal in the form of Nameless Inversion. The match itself was dull… we both mulliganed, I got a better draw than he did, so the two games didn’t go long. Though my sideboard was slightly different for Day 2 (I didn’t like the Peppersmoke), my overall plan of aggression in the mirror match remained.

Out: 1 Cryptic Command, 2 Pestermite, 3 Sower of Temptation (he had too much removal)
In: 2 Slaughter Pact, 4 Thoughtseize

Semifinals – Evan Erwin

Finally, a non-faerie deck! For the first time in nine rounds, I wouldn’t have to play the mirror match. Unfortunately, I was playing against Evan’s Mono-Red deck, which had proven itself in the Swiss (he went 5-0 before drawing into Top 8). If you want to see coverage, this match was also recorded on the Magic Show.

Out: 3 Sower of Temptation, 1 Cryptic Command, 2 Pestermite, 1 Mistbind Clique, 1 Terror
In: 4 Bottle Gnomes, 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Slaughter Pact

Finals – Ben E. Wienburg

In the finals, I had to play Constructed whiz Ben Wienburg. He had recently placed Top 16 at Grand Prix: Philadelphia, and was qualified for the Pro Tour. He was my only loss during the day, having beaten me round 1, and it was revenge time. He beat me game 1, and I made a comeback game 2. Game 3 was a long, intense battle of flying men, which inevitably came down to a very close finale. I was at nine life and Ben was at three, he had four lands in play and no creatures. I had two Bitterblossoms in play along with a dozen faerie tokens, a Spellstutter Sprite, and a Mutavault. I declare attackers and he plays Cryptic Command, taking one from his Underground River, tapping all my creatures and bouncing my Mutavault. I replay the Mutavault and pass at seven life. Next turn was an exact mirror of the previous, only me at five life and Ben at one. He also drew an Island and played it with a smile. Next turn I went down to three life, and although he was at one life, he was able to cast a third Cryptic Command painlessly to gain him an extra turn and bounce my Mutavault. On the next turn, I go to one from my Bitterblossoms and on my upkeep, he casts his fourth Cryptic Command. “Enough is enough” I say, and champion my Spellstutter Sprite with a Mistbind Clique and Terror the new Clique, placing the Sprite back into play and countering the Command. Whew…

Out: 1 Cryptic Command, 2 Pestermite, 3 Sower of Temptation
In: 2 Slaughter Pact, 4 Thoughtseize

I hope you enjoyed the tales of the faerie deck conquering Virginia. I can’t say what super secret tech will surface as a result of Pro Tour: Hollywood, but I know that faeries will not go down without a fight. My money is on a well-known pro-player piloting the faerie deck to the top, but that can change at any time.

To end this article, I would love to provide you with a gameplan for beating faeries, but unfortunately I have yet to find one. I can’t even produce a deck that can take down the Blue-Black menace consistently. The only way to beat faeries is with faeries. Under normal circumstances, my opinion towards choosing a deck is playing the deck that you feel the most comfortable with, but this time is an exception. If you are not comfortable playing faeries, or do not know how to play it, you’d better get to it. I do not find them very fun, and if your goal with Magic is to have fun first and foremost I don’t suggest playing the deck. Don’t feel too discouraged if you decide to play anything else, it’s just that I wouldn’t recommend any other deck in the current Standard environment. Period.

I hope you can find some entertainment either playing with or against faeries (though I doubt you will), and I’ll see you in October at Pro Tour: Berlin.

I look forward to any questions or comments you may have for this article in the forums.
Feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Alex Bertoncini