Positive EV – Faeries in Conflux Standard

Richmond, Virginia hosts the first StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open of 2009!
Tuesday, February 17th – This weekend sees the next installment of the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard open series! In the first of a new weekly column, Manuel Bucher talks us through the true effect of Conflux on the most powerful archetype in the format: Faeries. He shares his latest list, alongside extensive sideboarding tips for all the metagame contenders…

Welcome to my new column “Positive EV.”

I am very thankful to have the opportunity to write a column for StarCityGames.com. This wouldn’t be possible without you, the reader, clicking on my articles and giving me feedback so I can develop as a writer. Thank you.

I would also like to thank the Ruel Brothers, who believed in me as a player before I posted good results; and Patrick Chapin, who is helping me with my articles by proofreading them and helping my English.

This past week I have been on the Faeries side of the table a great deal as we tested for the upcoming Pro Tour in Kyoto. I feel more comfortable playing the deck than I ever have before, and this is the list I would recommend as of the writing of this article.

I realize this list is a little bit different than many people’s versions, so I would like to take a moment and explain the reasoning behind my choices.

Ponder is as sweet as a strawberry gets. I chose to run a whole set of this card as I mulligan very aggressively with this deck. I want to mulligan almost every single hand that doesn’t show me a Bitterblossom. Not only will you be able to cast more Bitterblossoms on turn 2, it lets you keep more hands that don’t have the enchantment. Ponder helps you search for the cards that win the game for you when you already have the Bitterblossom (Mistbind Clique, Cryptic Command, or Spellstutter Sprite). It is often right to delay Ponder until turn 5 when your hand already supports turn 2 through 4. If you are able to tutor for another four-drop on turn 5 to follow up the previous Mistbind Clique or Cryptic Command, this is often game-winning.

Vendilion Clique
Vendilion Clique has been amazing for me to help fight Volcanic Fallout. You can often force a turn 3 (or 4, depending who went first) Volcanic Fallout when you open with turn 2 Bitterblossom followed by Vendilion Clique. Against Five-Color, from my experience, I found that I want to play Vendilion Clique at sorcery speed, if they are not able to counter it, to get rid of Volcanic Fallout. Against Spectral Procession, the card adds more power on the third turn than Scion of Oona and gives you the information about what threats you are up against. Vendilion Clique also helps you setup Mistbind Clique without them being able to remove it, as you can get rid of their cheap removal spells.

Scion of Oona
Volcanic Fallout will be popular enough, so you have to adjust the Faerie deck so you don’t get blown out by it.

Peppersmoke and Terror versus Agony Warp
I think Terror is much better than Agony Warp in the current metagame. You want to be able to take down a Figure of Destiny when you are on the draw — without suspending your Bitterblossom. The downside is that you can’t deal with Tidehollow Sculler or shrink Demigod of Revenge. But as Demigod of Revenge sees less play, I’d rather be able to deal with opposing Mistbind Cliques and Cloudthresher. It also came up that I wasn’t able to cast Agony Warp and Broken Ambitions or Spellstutter Sprite in the same turn, which eventually cost me games. Peppersmoke was pretty good overall. It seems like you want to draw the card in every non-control match up, and even in the control matchup it is decent at fighting cards like Plumeveil.

Broken Ambitions versus Remove Soul
Being able to counter spells like Spectral Procession or Bitterblossom seems very important. The clash is helping your opponents more than you, but that is a minor price to pay if you are countering one of their key spells. Also, most of the decks will not be able to cast several spells a turn to justify playing Remove Soul.

Sower of Temptation
Sower of Temptation is a main deck card in most of the Faeries decks right now. I think the card is only good against the Spectral Procession decks. As Faerie lists move away from Scion of Oona towards Vendilion Clique in order to fight Volcanic Fallout, Sower of Temptation gets much worse in that matchup. Even though I was never a huge fan of Sower of Temptation in the mirror, the only scenario he actually was really good will occur much less frequently.

Countersquall is a bad Negate. As I explained in the Terror versus Agony Warp section, I often have problems with my mana and being able to cast more than one spell a turn, especially if they need heavy mana commitments. The two points of life loss shouldn’t be good enough to make the deck less consistent.

Here are some explanations about my plans versus popular decks.

Versus Faeries
This matchup is all about who has the Bitterblossom. I would mulligan every hand that doesn’t involve a way to stop their turn 2 Bitterblossom (Thoughtseize and Broken Ambitions) or has a turn 2 Bitterblossom itself.

-3 Mistbind Clique
+1 Vendilion Clique, +1 Terror, +1 Jace Beleren

Versus R/W Reveillark/Weenie
Depending on if they are running Path to Exile or not, the matchup gets closer. If they are running Flame Javelin as a solution to Mistbind Clique, the card will almost always Time Walk them. Most Spectral Procession decks have problems fighting Faeries. This seems the weakest of those decks, as they are running several threats (Ajani Vengeant, Reveillark, Siege-Gang Commander) which are not very impressive against the Faerie Deck.

+4 Infest, +3 Sower of Temptation, +1 Terror
-4 Thoughtseize, -3 Vendilion Clique, -1 Broken Ambitions

In order for R/W to fight Faeries, I recommend to sideboard so you have access to four Path to Exile, as the card addresses the biggest problem facing the Spectral Procession deck: Mistbind Clique. I think playing cards like Volcanic Fallout or Guttural Response is the wrong direction for this deck, as Volcanic Fallout kills most of your guys as well (and if you don’t have a board, you’re probably in pretty bad shape), and you don’t have serious enough threats to force through with Guttural Response. I would also avoid cards like Stillmoon Cavalier or Vexing Shusher, as you can expect the Faerie player to sideboard up to four Infest. Banefire seems to have the potential to steal games, so it seems like a fine one- or two-of in the sideboard. I also like the idea of having access to one Mirrorweave, which is a great answer to a Mistbind Clique if you were able to resolve a card like Spectral Procession. It is also very useful that no one plays around Mirrorweave anymore.

Versus B/W Tokens
This matchup is closer then the other Spectral Procession decks, as Terror in Faeries is much worse here than Agony Warp. Being unable to deal with Tidehollow Sculler hurts, especially when you are on the draw. The sideboard Infests lost a lot of value, since most of the Token decks are running Glorious Anthem. If the majority of your metagame is running B/W Tokens, you should exchange the Terrors for Agony Warps. I wasn’t able to play with Loxodon Warhammer in this matchup, but it seems good enough to bring in one in order to win the Bitterblossom versus Bitterblossom war.

+4 Infest, +3 Sower of Temptation, +1 Loxodon Warhammer
-3 Terror, -3 Peppersmoke, -1 Vendilion Clique, -1 Broken Ambitions

For obvious reasons the Sideboard choices for the B/W Token deck are very similar to the ones for the R/W Reveillark/Weenie. Mirrorweave gets way better in this deck thou as you have access to Marsh Flitter and Bitterblossom yourself in order to punish Mistbind Clique. I don’t think it is necessary here to sideboard up to four Path to Exile as you probably already have a nice mix of spot removal in the main deck.

Versus Five-Color Control
I think that you are a favorite against most of the Five-Color Control decklists I see out there. Besides Bitterblossom, Vendilion Clique and Jace Beleren are key cards. Often the right play is to add loyalty to Jace the turn it comes into play, as it makes the Planeswalker safe against Volcanic Fallout. Don’t be afraid to Mistbind Clique in response to a Volcanic Fallout on your own turn to save Vendilion Clique (which already managed to get rid of the Cloudthersher or Cruel Ultimatum they might play in their next turn, hehe).

+2 Jace Beleren, +1Vendilion Clique
-3 Peppersmoke

Obviously, Five-Color Control has more access to cards than other decks. Having access to four Volcanic Fallouts post-board seems very necessary. Negate helps you in fighting the biggest problem cards for the deck in the early game, Bitterblossom and Jace Beleren. Later in the game, it also helps you to force your big spells. Don’t be one of the many players to relax just because they have four Volcanic Fallouts, thinking that the Faerie matchup is a walk in the park. Even though you have access to that card, the Faerie matchup is still very challenging.

Versus Blightning Red
This is the matchup against which my Faerie list really struggles. Terror doesn’t catch half of their threats, while cards like Vendilion Clique or Thoughtseize are not even mediocre. They are able to fight your Bitterblossom with their own, and punish you for the loss of life with Banefire. I was usually fine with a turn 2 Bitterblossom followed by Vendilion Clique, or Spellstutter Sprite followed by Mistbind Clique. So far, the combination of Loxodon Warhammer and Razormane Masticore did a good job for me fighting their strategy, but it is weak versus lists with Demigod of Revenge. The sideboard changes a lot, as cards like Terror and Vendilion Cliques are getting better if they are running Boggart Ram-Gang and Volcanic Fallout. I would definitely sideboard in 2 Loxodon Warhammer and 2 Razormane Masticore for 4 Thoughtseize.

As the Red player, if you are not fighting with your own Bitterblossoms you should make sure that you have access to four Volcanic Fallouts in the post-board games. I would also sideboard some Terrors, as it seems very important to be able to kill Mistbind Clique for less than three mana (and it kills Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender in the White match up). Vithian Stinger seems like a nice tool in order to fight the Faerie player’s Bitterblossom.

Versus Noble Hierarch / Ancient Ziggurat
Peppersmoke, Terror, and Sower of Temptation are all really good tools to blow the Noble Hierarch out. Not to mention Mistbind Clique and Cryptic Command. If you are able to stop a second turn Doran, or if they don’t have that draw, you are a big favorite. If you have the opportunity to steal an untapped creature with Sower of Temptation, you should, in order to avoid getting blown out by Tower Above.

+3 Sower of Temptation, +1 Terror
-3 Vendilion Clique, -1 Broken Ambitions

As the Noble Hierarch player, you should make sure you have at least four spot removal spells post boast (Terror, Path to Exile) and several Cloudthresher, which is a very good follow-up to Sower of Temptation. All the mana creatures are ensuring that you are able to hard-cast it early when the Faerie deck is not prepared yet. You should also mulligan very aggressively. Without a turn 1 Noble Hierarch effect, you will have a very hard time winning.

Before I go, I want to talk about a few cards relevant to Faeries.

Scattershot Archer
This guy seems decent… the problem is that I don’t see a deck in which it could fit besides Noble Hierarch / Ancient Ziggurat. Depending on what Alara Reborn is bringing us, the guy might see a lot of play in the future.

Celestial Purge / Wispmare effects
I have never been a huge fan of sideboarding enchantment removal versus Faeries. As a beatdown deck, I’d rather have a more aggressive card which is not dead if my opponent doesn’t draw the Bitterblossom, while as a control deck I don’t want to rely on drawing a reactive spell for one card in their deck.

Vexing Shusher
Vexing Shusher was amazing at Worlds, when nobody saw him coming. Nowadays, when Faeries has Terrors against Five-Color Control (or Infest versus Red/White), the card has lost a lot of potential. The existence of Volcanic Fallout doesn’t help its long term strategy.

Not only is Faeries not dead, it is the deck to beat in Kyoto. Underestimating it is very dangerous… the tools to fight it do exist, but you can’t rely on one card to beat it.

Thanks for reading. As always, I look forward to your feedback in the forums.

See you next week!

Manuel B