Don’t forget your lands

Art by Fred Fields.

Not long ago, I was happily playtesting Bubble Hulk combo with my friends and while it was all fun and games, I had to use a playset of fetchlands from my other Modern deck, only to discover that I forgot to put them back in UB Faeries. Ironically, I noticed that after the last game of Modern Monday. It was odd indeed that I didn’t see any Delta’s during four rounds of play, and to my surprise, I was playing with a 56-card deck the whole time. Needless to say, I felt like I wasted a day of practice with the deck, but on the other hand, it’s never a waste to play Magic and pilot a deck you are in to (at the moment, may I add). Interactions, spell sequencing, resource management and discard targets happen all the time, so it’s not like there are no decisions.

However, don’t forget your lands, or you are going to have a bad time.

I have a confession to make. It’s pretty obvious. I’m a tribal player. Goblins were my starting point and still are my first trive (tribe you love), but during the last few months, despite printing of the Reckless Bushwhacker, I swam with the Fish, and I flew with the Faeries.

Sometimes, change is good. Other times, it’s a must. But every change gives you an insight, and the more decks you play with or against, the more you will learn about the format, deck archetypes, match-ups and interactions. You could say that this is all self-explanatory, and I would agree, but you have to start somewhere, so why not with the basics?

Forgetting those four Polluted Detla’s and losing a deck on GP Bologne (more on that later) made me think about mana base (among other things, really). Mana, in Magic the Gathering, is a resource. Normally, you put one land (which produces mana) in play each turn, and with goblins, my only goals was to use all my mana each turn to overwhelm my opponents before they could stabilize with stronger, more effective or more expensive spells, be it an answer (like Electrolyze, Pyroclasm) or a threat like Kalitas and Kitchen Finks.

If mana is a resource, so is starting life, and sometimes setting up mana takes life points. While I didn’t care much about my life total with Goblins as long as I was alive, I needed that Green or Black source for Atarka’s Command or Spike Jester on turn two, so I had to use some number of fetch and shocklands (therefore my life) to help casting spells on curve. Sure, I could and did use other dual lands as well, but nothing comes close to good old fetchlands, and there is nothing better than shocklands to pair with in Modern.

Next step are Merfolk, and while there is no life loss because of lands, it is Dismember that uses life to cut corners, in this case lowering the mana cost from three to one, which makes it the best colorless removal in the format and a great tempo play in a deck like Fish. During the Eldrazi Winter, I took Merfolk for a swim and had a decent time (and solid results) while having lots of fun.

GP-Bologna

Grand Prix Bologna was on the schedule and I was set to go to my first GP, so we sat down with friends and made the 75 for a Modern Merfolk deck, but the night before the event, we were playtesting after mediocre results on GPTs and somehow I ended up picking my Atarka No-Lord Goblins (two Reckless Bushwhacker, three mainboard Atarka’s Command, four Burning-Tree Emissary). Excitement started when I played my first round on table 3, and got blown out by GR Tron in Game 3 with Piledriver and Goblin Guide on board and Atarka’s Command ready in hand, awaiting that Pyroclasm, only to see Firespout.

Round two was up and I managed to sweep (2-0) a mana-flooded/screwed Junk that finally landed Lingering Souls, only to see me drop my Loyalist and swing for lethal. So I was back in the game at 1 – 1 total, and faced a UW Polymorph control in the next round. GP Bologna was a while ago, but I can still remember that feeling when I couldn’t hit a second land drop game 1, and how my deck wouldn’t let me get thru in the deciding game 3, but in the end, it wasn’t luck or lack of it, it was also decision making, muliganing, deck preparation and sideboard selection, among many other factors that contributed to me feeling unlucky to lose that Round 3 match.

But that was not all. I sat down for my fourth match and baaam, I couldn’t find my deckbox. I called a judge, went to check Lost and Found as well as my round 3 table, yet to no avail, so I dropped and went to check out vendors and to participate on some side events. I asked my opponent what he played and he was on Infect, a good match-up for a deck with 3 mainboard Mogg Fanatics, pack of Bolts and Forked Bolts from the side, so that felt even worse (not that it’s an auto-win, but still pretty good odds). Initially, I was shocked about losing the deck, but knew it was all my fault, so there I was, checking out vendors and decided to buy into Merfolk as I borrowed it from a friend of mine but already owned Mutavaults and Vials. While on a shopping spree, I bought back more than the half of my freshly lost Goblin deck.

Only one of my travel group (four people) made in into Day 2 (UW Eldrazi), and two of us went for the side events while the fourth did some sightseeing. A friend who went with me managed to win a side event with a Burn deck, so we exchanged the tix for a BFZ box and had some fun time opening it. All in all, GP Bologna was an interesting yet expensive experience for me, but despite losing a deck, I had fun and will definitely look forward to visiting another GP, and I’ll be more careful for sure.

Because I was somehow emotionally attached to my Goblin deck (I collect all Goblins 1-of), and it was more or less the same deck I won a PPTQ (and placed third on WMCQ) with, it felt like I lost something more than just a pile of valuable cardboard. I chose to share my story with Wizards of the Coasts and have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find a package from WotC, containing a Promo Goblin Welder and a Seize Control Commander deck. Wizards good guys, thanks for caring.

Welder Judge Promo

Time went by and I was waiting for Eldrazi Winter to pass while “enjoying” my time with the Merfolk, only to be rejoiced by the newest B&R updates in April, which ended up unleasing Sword of the Meek and Ancestral Vision in Modern. In a few days I was set to try out UB Faeries, another Tribal deck that has it’s synergies, but this time it was different. After checking out the primer it was all about creatures that counters, creatures that tap lands, creatures that can cycle or get rid of a card from either hands, and enchantment that beats, coupled with removal, discard and permission, what’s not to like? I was sold.

I had some experience piloting Skred Red, a Mono-Red Control deck, but playing with the Faeries was something entirely new for me.

You don’t tap out.

OK, you play a few sorcery speed spells like Bitterblossom and discard, but it’s all flash action from there. Since I didn’t play during the haydays of Faerie tribe, I only knew about it from the forums and articles, but after a Month of practice, I can see the reasoning why someone would call Faeries oppresive or uncomfortable to play against. I am no master of the flash, nor leader of the clique, so instead of the usual Playing Fae tips, tricks and explanations, I’ll go with what I feel like is the current situation of Faeries in Modern. Let’s consider we all know about when’s of Mistbind and Vendilion Clique, as well as the Bitterblossom goldfish math.

I’ve been playing with something like this since the inception of Ancestral Vision in Modern.

5 Discard spells
10 – 12 Creatures
5 – 6 Removal spells
4 – 5 Counterspells
3 Ancestral Visions
2 Cryptic Commands

UB Faeries

Creatures (11)
Spellstutter Sprite
Vendilion Clique
Scion of Oona
Mistbind Clique

Spells (24)
Bitterblossom
Ancestral Vision
Cryptic Command
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Go For The Throat
Dismember
Murderous Cut
Disfigure
Lands (25)
Mutavault
Creeping Tar Pit
Sunken Ruins
Drowned Catacomb
Watery Grave
Polluted Delta
Secluded Glen
River of Tear
Darkslick Shore
Island
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Relic of Progenitus
Damnation
Dispel
Negate
Countersquall
Hurkyl’s Recall
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Sower of Temptation
Doom Blade
Agony Warp

While not perfect, I’m more than happy with my results: 65% win rate in matches and 61% in games played. This deck can win after trailing 0-1, more so than Merfolk or Goblins, so it’s not the end of the World if you lose game 1. However, there are some match-ups that are straight awful, and some that I have yet to face. All I know is that I have serious problems winning against Merfolk, Bushwhacker Zoo, Lantern Control and GR Tron, which are not popular in our metagame, but are present.

This got me thinking; Faeries are a Aggro Control deck that can be effective in tempo (time advantage), but can also play the card advantage route with ease. Usually, you play both in the same game. Yes, this is old news, but after facing Bushwhacker Zoo and left for dead with many a card in my hand and with taplands in the play, or inefficient removal staring down a bunch of cheap Cats, Apes and Goblins on steroids (haste), I came to the conclusion that we can’t out-tempo them, but also can’t really play the true control game in the match-up. Engineered Explosives, Kalitas and Damnation are all good, but could be a bit too slow against the aggro start. I saw a few lists running Agony Warp and I have to say that I find it a decent 1-of in the mainboard. It’s a bit more color restrictive with the UB in the cost, but it can act as a single target removal (hits most if not all early threats) while also giving you more breathing room when facing decks like Zoo. It doesn’t add much, but can kill a body while fogging another, granting more time or another draw step. The addition of trading up when blocking is also a bonus, but on the other hand, it’s not hard removal.

I’ll be sure to write more constantly, and will do so soon as I’m eager to do more research about modern metagame, faeries and maybe even Magic the Gathering finances.

Well, it’s been a while since my last post, and it seems I had (and still have) a lot in my mind. All in all, Planeswalker points season will end soon, and I’m glad to say that I reached the 1300 points treshold that I aiemd for. Be good and strong until next time. Cheers!

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