I have a Vedalken Shackles. What could possibly go wrong?
These were the words that went through my mind as I threw away my perfect performance at GP Columbus.
It was round five and I was playing Faeries against Josh Rayden’s UWR Delver. I tapped low for what I had hoped would be a back-breaking Shackles, but he casually drew and played Geist of Saint Traft. It turned out he could break those cuffs.
I couldn’t believe how loose my play was. I’d like to blame it on sleep deprivation, but the real problem was that I hadn’t played a deck like Faeries in over a year. My list was sub-optimal and my play was of the same nature. Honestly, I don’t even think that Shackles belongs in the deck in the first place - a conclusion that I would have reached with some minor testing.
After punting round five, I went on to punt round six and ultimately lose round 9 to finish 6-3 and not make day two. All things considered, I believe that Faeries is among the best decks in Modern and if I had another Modern tournament to play in I would only make minor changes to my list.
For reference, here is what I played:
I was very happy with my choice of deck, but there are some clear problems with the list. Here’s an overview of what worked and what didn’t.
Spellstutter Sprite, Remand and Mana Leak
I completely stand by playing all four copies of these two-mana counters. Spellstutter Sprite belongs for obvious reasons, but it is my understanding that many Faeries lists are not playing the full eight Mana Leak and Remand. By filling up this slot the deck has the best ability to fight both opposing three drops and counter-wars. The clearer you can keep the board in the early turns, the more powerful your Cryptic Commands become - as if they needed any help.
My friend Jens and I used to joke that Cryptic Command’s text should just be “Pick two.” Let’s be real, this card does everything. It counters, it cantrips, it fogs, it Stone Rains. Play four. No exceptions.
Vendilion Clique was largely underappreciated when it was first printed, but the community has caught up at this point. The only thing that I’m not 100% on is whether or not to add a fourth. While it is true that the fragile body allows most decks to kill Cliques very easily, I still found it surviving in a surprising percentage of games. The ability to target yourself and wheel extras might be enough to sell me on the full four-pack considering that I just intend to counter all of their spells anyway.
This card is extremely efficient and has so much value in games when you’re on the draw. There were four in the list that I was given and I definitely think that I was wrong to cut one.
What Needed Improvement
For the most part, this card was stinky. Faeries is so good at countering opposing threats that generally only one-drops are able to sneak by. The major problem with Shackles is that in most situations you can’t cast it without leaving counter mana up. Generally you’ll want to leave this mana up until the end of your opponent’s turn, which more or less means that your Shackles double time-walked you. All of this tempo loss when the problem is most commonly a one drop is painfully bad. I would easily cut these in favor of a second Dismember and a Repeal.
Scion of Oona
I showed up in Columbus with no intention of playing Scion, but Josh Rayden ended up talking me into it. I was of the impression that it was terrible and he was of the belief that it was one of the best cards in the deck. We were both wrong about it. The card is the very definition of okay.
It serves as a counterspell and/or a flash threat, but it does both of these jobs rather poorly: the counter being very narrow and the threat often being underwhelming. It certainly sped up my Mutavault clock by a turn or so a few times, but it never at all mattered in a close game. I could easily see cutting these guys from the deck entirely.
I never activated this card in a game that I won and I lost at least one game to it coming into play tapped. Personally, I would cut it for an Island, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for replacing it with another Tectonic Edge.
As I said above, the biggest problem with the deck was the inability to effectively deal with one-drops. The strong counter-suite is very good at locking opponents out of the game starting on turn two. Bounce spells are possibly the best option to answer one-drops, as they can be Spellstuttered on their way back down.
Vapor Snag is worth considering as it efficiently deals with more expensive creatures as well, but I’d lean toward Repeal as there isn’t much in the way of card draw in the deck. It’s also just insane against Insectile Aberration.
Faeries is so insane against any sort of combo or midrange deck while still being competitive against aggressive decks that I’m surprised it didn’t post better numbers in Columbus. I suppose that this is in part my bad.
Hey, what happened to that sweet Grixis deck?
A couple weeks back I wrote about the Grixis deck that I played during the last Modern PTQ season. I was really happy with the deck last year, but I think that Restoration Angel has completely invalidated the deck. I don’t feel that fair decks can reliably beat the Angel decks without being able to consistently counter Restoration Angel. Not only does it generate insane value in tandem with cards like Kitchen Finks, but its four-toughness backside is just tough to deal with in the first place.
I understand that Modern isn’t super relevant as of now, but I also don’t think that the format is going to change very much between now and the next PTQ season. If M13 is any evidence of where power levels are trending, then there shouldn’t be too many cards that will shake up Modern in the coming months. If nothing else, it’s probably a very good deck to run through dailies in the meantime if Modern is your format of choice.
Good luck, high five.