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The Modern Bible (Part 7 of 8) by Nick Rennard

Evolution of Faeries

I often get the question of, “whatever happened to Faeries?” The answer is that Faeries has never died (in terms of the style of deck), but it has evolved to the point where the beginning list and the current list are so different that they would be hard to find any card-for-card similarities between the two. I am going to start from the beginning and go chronologically through how Faeries has evolved into the deck that it is today.

Mono U Faeries (my list):

Manbase (25):

  • 1x Faerie Conclave
  • 18x Island
  • 4x Mutavault
  • 2x Tectonic Edge

 

Mainboard (35):

  • 4x Mistbind Clique
  • 4x Scion of Oona
  • 2x Spellskite
  • 4x Spellstutter Sprite
  • 3x Vendilion Clique
  • 4x Cryptic Command
  • 4x Mana Leak
  • 2x Deprive
  • 1x Spell Pierce
  • 4x Spell Snare
  • 3x Vedalken Shackles

 

Sideboard (15):

  • 1x Dismember
  • 1x Echoing Truth
  • 1x Pithing Needle
  • 2x Ratchet Bomb
  • 2x Relic of Progenitus
  • 1x Sower of Temptation
  • 3x Spell Pierce
  • 2x Steel Sabotage
  • 2x Threads of Disloyalty

This list is very similar to the original Faeries decks that you would see in the beginning Modern. Oddly enough, this deck has been around since the beginning of Modern, and it’s still a relatively viable list. However, it does have quite a few weaknesses. First of all, there isn’t any spot removal in this deck. Cards like Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile are extremely important to be able to deal with some of the high impact creatures that come down early in the game in Modern such as Deathrite Shaman and Dark Confidant. The problem with Faeries is that if you aren’t ahead enough to be able to counter your opponent’s threats with something like a Mana Leak or a Spellstutter Sprite, then it’s hard to get back ahead of your opponent. Faeries has also always been very weak to efficient removal spells like Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze, so the popularity of those spells in Modern have been preventing Faeries from ever becoming a Tier 1 deck. People started to realize that Faeries needed spot removal, so they started splashing in some of the most efficient removal spells in Modern in the following list:

UR Delver/Faeries (my list):

Manabase (22):

  • 1x Mountain
  • 2x Sulfur Falls
  • 2x Watery Grave
  • 3x Scalding Tarn
  • 3x Mutavault
  • 3x Misty Rainforest
  • 4x Steam Vents
  • 4x Island

 

Mainboard (38):

  • 4x Delver of Secrets
  • 4x Snapcaster Mage
  • 4x Spellstutter Sprite
  • 2x Vendilion Clique
  • 4x Lightning Bolt
  • 3x Spell Snare
  • 2x Pillar of Flame
  • 4x Mana Leak
  • 4x Remand
  • 4x Magma Jet
  • 2x Electrolyze
  • 1x Condescend

 

Sideboard (15):

  • 2x Blood Moon
  • 2x Counterflux
  • 2x Magma Spray
  • 2x Engineered Explosives
  • 2x Go for the Throat
  • 1x Isochron Scepter
  • 1x Dispel
  • 1x Negate
  • 1x Relic of Progenitus
  • 1x Threads of Disloyalty

This list has more answers to the problematic cards we mentioned earlier like Dark Confidant. The removal spells in this deck can be used proactively to finish off our opponents by burning their life total. That’s great and all, but this deck is still extremely light on its threats. All of its threats are extremely easy to kill with any of the removal spells in Modern (Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Electrolyze, Dismember, Terminate, Abrupt Decay, etc). Faeries needs to be applying pressure to their opponent and protecting their threats, but if they can’t get a reasonable threat to put a clock on their opponent, then decks with a higher amount of inevitability like Tron and Birthing Pod are eventually going to take over the game. This means that Faeries needs to either be playing bigger and more resilience threats or they need to be willing to go late-game against those decks like Tron and Birthing Pod that have high levels of inevitability.

One thing I will note about this list specifically in comparison with the first Faeries list is that I highly disagree with the cutting of Vedalken Shackles. Vedalken Shackles is one of my favorite cards to run in decks like this, and I feel that removing it from the deck just because the deck is splashing red makes it significantly worse.

RUG Delver (my list):

Manabase (21):

  • 1x Stomping Ground
  • 1x Breeding Pool
  • 2x Steam Vents
  • 4x Scalding Tarn
  • 4x Misty Rainforest
  • 1x Forest
  • 1x Mountain
  • 7x Island

 

Mainboard (39):

  • 2x Gitaxian Probe
  • 4x Serum Visions
  • 4x Lightning Bolt
  • 3x Spell Snare
  • 4x Delver of Secrets
  • 1x Deprive
  • 3x Izzet Charm
  • 4x Mana Leak
  • 4x Snapcaster Mage
  • 2x Turn/Burn
  • 4x Tarmogoyf
  • 3x Vedalken Shackles
  • 1x Cryptic Command

 

Sideboard (15):

  • 2x Ancient Grudge
  • 2x Blood Moon
  • 1x Engineered Explosives
  • 2x Huntmaster of the Fells
  • 1x Negate
  • 1x Relic of Progenitus
  • 3x Spells Pierce
  • 2x Spellskite
  • 1x Surgical Extraction

The first thing you may notice about this deck is that it’s not even running any Faeries. This is true, but the way that RUG Delver plays out is very similar to the way that the original Faeries decks are meant to play out, so I still categorize this style of deck as a ‘faeries’ deck (hence, the evolution of faeries). Remember that Faeries hasn’t disappeared as a deck in Modern; it has only evolved.

This list is significantly better than the previous two lists because of several reasons. First of all, Tarmogoyf is one of the fattest and most resilient threats that exists in Modern. That’s exactly what the original Faeries deck was looking for: fat, resilient threats. Splashing green makes our mainboard threats much more powerful, and it also allows access to powerful sideboard cards like Ancient Grudge and Huntmaster of the Fells.

Secondly, since the printing of Return to Ravnica, Izzet Charm has become a key player in decks like this. Izzet Charm is an amazing card for interacting with most other cards in Modern, and it help us smooth out any draws that involve too many or too few lands. Turn/Burn is another recent addition that doesn’t get enough credit. Original Faerie decks had some serious issues dealing with threats such as Wurmcoil Engine, Elesh Norn, and other titans of Modern. Turn/Burn is a great way to deal with these threats while still having the option of shocking our opponent’s life total to finish them off.

This deck still has the same problem that the old Faeries decks had. If it can’t keep a threat on the field, then it’s not doing much of anything since it’s difficult to play late game against the decks with high inevitability (ex. Tron & Birthing Pod). Tarmogoyf certainly helps the deck quite a bit, but it wasn’t the end-all solution. Eventually you saw these decks start to completely remove their fragile threats like Delver (since their opponents were doing a good enough job at doing it for them with cards like Abrupt Decay), and RUG Delver eventually started to mold into a midrange deck.

RUG Midrange (my list):

Manabase (23):

  • 1x Stomping Ground
  • 1x Breeding Pool
  • 2x Steam Vents
  • 4x Misty Rainforest
  • 4x Scalding Tarn
  • 1x Forest
  • 1x Mountain
  • 9x Island

 

Mainboard (37):

  • 4x Serum Visions
  • 4x Lightning Bolt
  • 2x Spell Snare
  • 1x Deprive
  • 1x Izzet Charm
  • 4x Mana Leak
  • 4x Snapcaster Mage
  • 4x Tarmogoyf
  • 3x Vedalken Shackles
  • 3x Electrolyze
  • 1x Thirst for Knowledge
  • 2x Jace Beleren
  • 2x Cryptic Command
  • 2x Engineered Explosives

 

Sideboard (15):

  • 1x Ancient Grudge
  • 1x Batterskull
  • 2x Blood Moon
  • 1x Combust
  • 2x Firespout
  • 2x Huntmaster of the Fells
  • 1x Nature’s Claim
  • 2x Negate
  • 1x Pithing Needle
  • 2x Relic of Progenitus

As you can see, this list is much more equipped for taking an opponent into the late game because of its high density of countermagic and card advantage. Jace Beleren is a great source of card advantage in Modern, and I personally believe that he’s highly underrated. I think that he is a much better version of Think Twice and Sphinx’s Revelation in terms of overall card draw. An unanswered Jace can get pretty out of control, and it’s hard to deal with him without losing some sort of card advantage.

The issue with this deck is that it could be a little slow. Obviously when you start removing the lower end of the curve cards like Delver of Secrets and start replacing it with cards like Electrolyze, then opponents who are making significant plays that demand answers in the first couple turns are going to start to get ahead of you. This deck remained popular for a while until we saw the debut of a deck called Eternal Command piloted by Shouta Yasooka in the 2012 Player’s Championship listed here:

Eternal Command (Shouta Yasooka 2nd Place Player’s Championship 2012):

Manabase (21):

  • 1x Breeding Pool
  • 1x Steam Vents
  • 1x Stomping Ground
  • 4x Scalding Tarn
  • 3x Misty Rainforest
  • 2x Copperline Gorge
  • 3x Flooded Grove
  • 4x Island
  • 1x Forest
  • 1x Mountain

 

Mainboard (39):

  • 4x Aether Vial
  • 4x Lightning Bolt
  • 2x Serum Visions
  • 3x Spell Snare
  • 2x Vapor Snag
  • 4x Snapcaster Mage
  • 3x Tarmogoyf
  • 3x Mana Leak
  • 2x Remand
  • 3x Eternal Witness
  • 3x Vendilion Clique
  • 2x Thirst for Knowledge
  • 4x Cryptic Command

 

Sideboard (15):

  • 3x Ancient Grudge
  • 2x Combust
  • 2x Glen Elendra Archmage
  • 1x Grafdigger’s Cage
  • 3x Huntmaster of the Fells
  • 2x Spell Pierce
  • 2x Threads of Disloyalty

This deck was created even before the printing of Izzet Charm, so these specific lists are a little out of chronological order, but that’s only because Shouta Yasooka was quite a bit ahead of his metagame when he decided to take this deck to the 2012 Player Championships. Conceptually speaking, this deck list was one of the significant pillars in the evolution of the Faeries-style deck. As you can see, this list utilizes the tempo of Aether Vial to make up for the lack of speed in the previous versions of midrange RUG decks. It even uses the Thirst for Knowledge more effectively since it’s able to pitch the Aether Vials and generate more card advantage. Aether Vial is at its best when it’s played on turn one, so it’s nice to have cards like Izzet Charm, Thirst for Knowledge, and Desolate Lighthouse to filter those cards out later on in the game. This deck still lacked a little bit of speed, but once this game took control, there wasn’t a lot of getting out of their Eternal Witness + Cryptic Command lock. Like I mentioned in my UWR section about Cryptic Command, there are very few situations where Cryptic Command cannot effectively interact with your opponent in one way or another. I recently picked up Eternal Command again to give it another shot in the metagame, and here’s the deck list that I came up with:

Next-Level Faeries Command (my list):

Manabase (22):

  • 4x Raging Ravine
  • 1x Desolate Lighthouse
  • 3x Breeding Pool
  • 2x Steam Vents
  • 4x Misty Rainforest
  • 4x Scalding Tarn
  • 3x Island
  • 1x Forest

 

Mainboard (38):

  • 3x Aether Vial
  • 4x Serum Visions
  • 4x Lightning Bolt
  • 3x Spell Snare
  • 4x Izzet Charm
  • 4x Mana Leak
  • 3x Scavenging Ooze
  • 4x Snapcaster Mage
  • 4x Tarmogoyf
  • 2x Thirst for Knowledge
  • 3x Cryptic Command

 

Sideboard (15):

  • 2x Ancient Grudge
  • 2x Beast Within
  • 2x Engineered Explosives
  • 2x Huntmaster of the Fells
  • 1x Scavenging Ooze
  • 2x Sowing Salt
  • 2x Spellskite
  • 1x Thundermaw Hellkite

I feel that one of Faeries’s original strengths was manlands. All of the best decks in Modern have amazing utility lands. Birthing Pod has Gavony Township. Tron has Eye of Ugin. UWR has Celestial Colonnade. Jund has Raging Ravine. Many other decks use Tectonic Edge. I wanted to incorporate some kind of utility land back into this style of deck, so I decided to try out Raging Ravine and Desolate Lighthouse. I’ll admit that the manabase of this deck is a little greedy, but one of the strengths of this deck is its low land count and high threat density. This deck still has some weaknesses, but it is has improved quite a bit since the original versions of RUG Delver, Eternal Command, etc. You can see that I removed the Eternal Witness, which makes it so the deck doesn’t have access to the Eternal Command lock anymore. The reason I removed it was because I didn’t like having to tick my Aether Vials up to 3, and it was so easy to kill the Eternal Witness in response to the Cryptic Command that I just wanted to cut the Eternal Witness for less fragile, higher impact, and more versatile cards.

You can see that I have a Thundermaw Hellkite in the sideboard of this deck. Lingering Souls can be hard for this deck to deal with, so I wanted a proactive way to deal with Lingering Souls. I felt that Thundermaw Hellkite was the best solution to that problem, and I honestly feel that Thundermaw Hellkite is going to start seeing a significant amount more play in Modern as time goes on (especially if Lingering Souls remains popular). You’ll also notice that I have 2x Beast Within in the sideboard of this deck. When I was testing this deck I realized how good Rest in Peace is against it. It makes Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, and Snapcaster Mage all pretty miserable. I thought about sideboarding cards like Nature’s Claim, but it’s difficult to side in Nature’s Claim against opponents when you don’t know whether or not they’re actually going to bring in Rest in Peace against you. The primary deck that runs Rest in Peace in their sideboard against you is UWR, so I decided to play Beast Within because it can not only hit the Rest in Peace, but also their Celestial Colonnades, planeswalkers, and other problematic threats.

I honestly feel that this deck has enough early interaction with your opponent that you could try cutting the Aether Vials and Thirst for Knowledge from the deck for more proactive threats (and probably another land or two). I’d be interested to see anyone’s brews for improving this list. RUG has always been my favorite color combination, and I enjoy brewing this style of deck. As you can see, this is what Faerie-style decks have evolved into. Maybe someday they’ll include some actual Faeries again.

You can run Vendilion Clique in this type of deck if you would like, but I always feel that Vendilion Clique is a little underwhelming and too easy to kill. Remember that the original problem of Faerie-style decks was that their threats were too easily removed with efficient removal spells like Abrupt Decay and Lightning Bolt. Vendilion Clique falls right into that category of threats that die too easily. My favorite aspect of Vendilion Clique is the ability to look at your opponent’s hand. As I explained in the section about UWR, if you’re looking for a way to look at your opponent’s hand, then I recommend using Gitaxian Probe or Peek since they are nice, cheap spells that can be easily eaten up by Snapcaster Mage.

Here’s one last Faerie-style deck that has popped up since the printing of Young Pyromancer:

UR Young Pyromancer (my list):

Manabase (21):

  • 5x Island
  • 1x Mountain
  • 4x Scalding Tarn
  • 4x Misty Rainforest
  • 3x Tectonic Edge
  • 3x Mutavault
  • 1x Breeding Pool

 

Mainboard (39):

  • 4x Delver of Secrets
  • 4x Young Pyromancer
  • 4x Snapcaster Mage
  • 4x Mana Leak
  • 4x Serum Visions
  • 4x Lightning Bolt
  • 4x Gitaxian Probe
  • 2x Spell Snare
  • 1x Spell Pierce
  • 1x Burst Lightning
  • 2x Electrolyze
  • 2x Izzet Charm
  • 2x Vedalken Shackles
  • 1x Cryptic Command

 

Sideboard (15):

  • 3x Blood Moon
  • 2x Spellskite
  • 2x Dispel
  • 2x Threads of Disloyalty
  • 2x Combust
  • 2x Ancient Grudge
  • 1x Counterflux
  • 1x Relic of Progenitus

I only included this deck list because I wanted to talk about how I felt about the power level of Young Pyromancer in Modern. This deck has been seeing quite a bit of play recently in Modern Daily Events on MTGO, but I think that’s only because lots of people are excited to play with Young Pyromancer (plus he’s inexpensive). There’s no doubt that Young Pyromancer is a fun card to play with, but that doesn’t necessarily make him good and competitive.

With the recent printing of Young Pyromancer, people have been trying to fit him into these Faeries-style decks. Young Pyromancer has quite a bit of potential because his effect is very powerful, but he falls into the same category as Vendilion Clique and Delver of Secrets as being too easy to kill. Because of this, I consider this particular list to be a strictly Tier 2 deck. If you want to successfully brew with Young Pyromancer, then I recommend trying more unfair strategies with cards like Battle Hymn and Faithless Looting.

Thanks for reading!

-Nick Rennard

 

Facebook: Nick Rennard – Oregon State University

MTGO: nrjets99

e-mail: nickrennard@yahoo.com