It’s been a long time since I’ve written an article. The reason is that I don’t think there was much I could’ve written about – I didn’t break any formats I didn’t have any special insights on Magic theory and I didn’t do very well in any major tournaments. I only like writing when I have something to say and I haven’t had anything to say.
Now I do.
As soon as Shadowmoor was released I started building Standard decks and playing Magic. It was clear the deck to beat was Faeries so everything I built I tested against Faeries first. And I couldn’t beat it. Ever.
I tried aggro decks. I tried control decks. Most of my decks were geared towards beating faeries – they’d have multiple Crovaxes Pacts of Negation Cloudthreshers. The only deck I found that had a good game versus Faeries was Merfolk but that wasn’t even very good after sideboarding and it’s just worse than Faeries versus mostly everything else (that was before the seven-removal version came out by the way). When I played Mono-Red with maindeck Magus of the Moon resolved the Magus of the Moon and still lost I knew I had arrived at a Yokohama-like situation – and I knew I didn’t want to make the same mistake.
In Yokohama my enemy had been Teachings. None of my decks could beat it and eventually I found something I thought could beat it (White Weenie). The problem was that our versions of Teachings were outdated because we focused so much on beating it instead of evolving it. When we got to the Pro Tour Teachings no longer lost to White Weenie. In the end Teachings won the tournament. I decided that in this tournament I’d play the Teachings not the White Weenie.
What was left for me was to decide which version of Faeries I’d play and then I could cement all my sideboard plans and strategies. If I couldn’t get an edge from my deck being better (in the mirror at least) I had to get an edge from playing slightly better and on knowing what to do.
I started to play Faeries. Some friends helped me even those who weren’t qualified. The "famous" Brazilian players were strangely absent from this Pro Tour – it seemed like I was the only one who cared enough to test hardcore so I didn’t play with them. I also played a bunch of tournaments in Magic-League. My initial version was exactly the one I played (minus the sideboard). Eventually I felt comfortable enough with it that I started experimenting with other things.
The brightest of my ideas I think was playing Shadowmage Infiltrator. I just love this guy and he is insanely better than say Scion of Oona. He also happened to be pretty good against everything people brought against you – Squall Line Thresher Canopy Guttural Response etc. He turned out to be good but not good enough. He was awesome in the mirror on the play and good against mostly everything on turn 3 but after that you never wanted to tap out for him. I had convinced myself he’d be good while theorizing that it was hard to let the idea go but it clearly wasn’t good enough.
After that came the Teachings hybrid: essentially the same deck but with Teachings Teferis and some one-ofs. The Teferis were actually good but the Teachings were sub-optimal. Most of the time there was something I wanted to do with my spare mana – like attacking with the Man-Lands I now had less of because of Teachings. I ditched that too.
In the meantime I talked to other people that were also thinking of playing Faeries – Joel Calafell Gerry Thompson and Melissa DeTora. We exchanged some ideas and eventually I realized that no one had any ideas of what to do for the mirror. There was just nothing that I could do that would change the matchup – the cards that matter remained the cards that mattered. I couldn’t board in a fifth Bitterblossom Mutavault or Ancestral Vision and everything else was just too clunky – Mawcors Peppersmokes Oona Teferi – they turned your deck into the kind of deck Faeries is built to beat. Peppersmoke is actually not bad but I don’t think there is anything you want to remove for it – it’s worse than everything else and your sideboard slots are better spent elsewhere.
The thing we thought about was playing maindeck Thoughtseize. That made sense – it was the only way to gain a small edge in the mirror. Eventually though we (Joel and I) decided that they were worse than Vendilion Cliques against most other decks and mainly against the decks against which you had a worse matchup so we stuck with three of the 3/1 flyers.
Speaking of Vendilion Cliques… Vendilions are the big difference from my build and the "accepted" one. Here is my list before I start talking about it:
Most people ask me why I ran Vendilions over Nameless Inversion or over Pestermite. The reason is that I think it’s just better. Almost everything you could Nameless you can block and kill with Vendilion except it’s so much better in those matches in which Nameless Inversion is bad. There is rarely something you want to tap but not block – sure Pestermite taps Treetops and Vanquishers but Vendilion blocks and kills them! I’d rather block and kill Treetop Village than tap it for a turn and then have Pestermite versus Treetop on the following. The ability is also relevant – sometimes you don’t even take anything but just knowing what is in their hand is a big plus for a deck like Faeries. There are some decks against which it’s an absolute all star (though admittedly you have a good matchup versus those already – but maybe it’s not as good if you start running dead cards like Nameless) – those that have a large amount of Mana or irrelevant mainly spells bracketing their key plays (like Mana Ramp Reveillark and the French/Swiss Mannequin deck). Against those decks it’s even more important to know their hand and by taking their key card you leave them with a bunch of dead ones that you don’t care about. It’s also better than either of the other options against Red Aggro – it’s a blocker that takes away a burn spell for something that potentially doesn’t matter as much (like a creature late game when they try to burn you out) and that demands a burn spell on its own sometimes. It also lets you play around maindeck Magus of the Moon game 1. Overall I was very happy with them and I would run the full three again if I had to.
The other cards are all self explanatory (I think) except for the manabase.
I believe you must run two Pendelhavens. It’s too important in the mirror and against other Aggro decks. During the whole tournament I was not once harmed by drawing two of them (though I was by drawing one when Shuhei had one as well but that’s a price I’ll pay).
I also don’t think two Sunken Ruins harms you. Again during the whole tournament they never harmed me (except when I mistapped lands and left Mutavault and Ruins untapped but they can hardly be blamed for that). I believe you should play two of them but not more – each after the first gets worse.
I also think the number of River of Tears is correct – it’s a good card and if Magus of the Moon didn’t exist or I didn’t play Ancestral Vision I’d likely play the four as it’s usually strictly better than Island but you do need some Islands because of Visions/Magus and the fourth River is worse than the second Ruins. The River doesn’t Terror on their turn and it also doesn’t let you Command properly at the end of your own turn.
The two Faerie Conclaves are the ones I’m not absolutely sure about. If I had to play the deck again it’d play the two Conclaves but I’m not completely sure of it like I am with the other cards. I activated them few times during the tournament and I can remember of at least one game I would have won if they were any other land but I still think they belong somehow – one of the greatest abilities of the Faeries deck is to go from defense to offense in a nanosecond and the Man-Lands help you with that.
Then comes the sideboard. Four Thoughtseizes for the mirror and any deck where you don’t board anything else three Gnomes strictly for RDW three Masticores and two Redcaps as Magus protection and against decks like Elves and 3 Damnations… hmm… for decks with creatures I guess! I liked my sideboard a lot during the tournament and I’ll explain what I did in each match as the situations come up. I’ll also talk a little about how to play each matchup but before that there is a concept that you must understand if you want to play Faeries…
Your greatest strength is that you are a control deck that can move into beatdown if necessary.
If you play Faeries as an aggro deck you’ll lose matches you shouldn’t. The same happens if you play Faeries as a control deck. You are neither control nor aggro – you are both and that’s why you win. Sometimes the need to go aggro will be forced upon you usually because of your own Bitterblossom but sometimes you have to go Aggro even when it doesn’t look like you have to. For that you must be able to discern when you will win the long game and when you won’t. You only have so many counters and if you can kill them before you run out of the ones you have and avoid having to draw into others why not?
Faeries is also a deck in which you need math. Most of the time everything is in play (or in their hand *cough* Vendilion *cough*) for you to see… you only have to be aware of it. Cards like Bitterblossom and Cryptic Command make it clear how much damage you can deal/take in the next turns so you shouldn’t be lazy about that. You can usually calculate the state of the game life-wise for the next N turns so you should do it instead of just playing and "hoping things sort themselves out and that you have enough damage." You don’t have to attack with all your guys you don’t have to use Pendelhaven and you don’t have to play mainphase Scion – but sometimes you do. Knowing when you have to is all about math that isn’t really hard.
Finally we get to the tournament…
Round 1 – Vignessoule Guillaume - RG
My opponent was clearly nervous and he made some mistakes because of that. Game 1 he won the roll and made Mountain Mountain Vexing Shusher – not the start one is hoping to see with Faeries but it could be a lot worse. He played some creatures that I countered and eventually I Vendilion away a Magus of the Moon and stuck a Scion in play. He had an Intimidator Initiate so I have to be careful on my attacks or I might die to some cheap spells. The good thing about that though was that it made him play his spells main phase before attacking thus walking into my Commands and Spellstutters. I win a close race against his Megalith with four Bitterblossoms in hand. This is one of the matches where you have to stick damage as much as you can because sometimes you get into a stage of the game that translates that into life gain (if you dealt them more damage they have fewer turns to draw the burn to kill you).
I boarded like this:
I normally don’t side in Damnation but he had so many creatures (Shusher Intimidators Goyf plus the usual suspects) that it felt worth it. Normally I’d keep all the Vendilions in. Some people take out a number of Bitterblossoms against Red decks but I believe this is wrong – in the end Blossom usually saves you more life than it takes away either by blocking or by killing them before they can burn you. It also provides you a safe port to champion Mistbind Clique which is probably your best card in the matchup. I’d not take any out.
Game 2 started with his Goyf against my Gnome. He made a mistake that ended up costing him the game – he Tarfired the Gnomes when I blocked instead of Tarfiring me. That’d make the Goyf 3/4 and big enough to kill Gnomes on its own while dealing me two damage. He played a Jaya after that and I Damnationed it away.
I eventually played a Masticore which killed a Magus of the Moon. He had another Goyf a 5/6 so I couldn’t block it but he couldn’t block my Masticore either and I was winning the race. He attacked me down to 6 and played a Demigod of Revenge to block (were I on 4 I’d have died) but I had Vision resolving and I drew into Redcap. It killed his Demigod with the three from Masticore and left the path free.
Round 2 – Albesiano Enrico - Ru Storm
The first game was a bit frustrating. I had a draw with Blossom and some aggression but he had a Vision I couldn’t stop. I had my own Vision but his resolved first. I Cliqued him on the Vision turn but he had six counters on multiple storage lands and was able to Empty the Warrens for 12 tokens. I do the math and notice that if I attack with everything I can take 12 (down to two with my Bitterblossom gone via the champion mechanic) and kill him next turn. I had Spellstutter Sprite and Vendilion Clique that I drew from Visions and mana to play both. I had a choice to make:
Either I attack with all and play Vendilion on his Draw Step – which kills me if he has two Grapeshots or draws into a Grapeshot from the card I remove or has two burn spells…
Or I play Vendilion before attacking which kills me if he draws his Grapeshot as his one card or as the card I Vendilion away.
With this play I also get to decide if I move all in or not – if his hand is something like triple burn that I can’t deal with or two Grapshots I don’t attack with everybody. At the time it seemed better to mainphase Vendilion but looking back I think I probably made the wrong decision.
I Vendilioned him and saw a land that came into play tapped a Rift Bolt and a Ponder. He had five lands in play. I reasoned that if I take out the Rift Bolt I’m increasing his chances to draw Spell plus Grapeshot. I’d normally take out the Ponder in any situation but he only has five mana – if he plays Ponder and finds Grapeshot he can play Grapeshot for two which I counter and remain at one unless he draws a land to also play the Rift Bolt.
I let him keep them and he made Rift Bolt Grapeshot. Frown.
Had I waited until his draw step It’d be dependent on what he drew or Pondered into – Shock or Grapeshot would’ve killed me but I’ll never know.
I sided like so:
-3 Rune Snag (they don’t look very good versus him because of multiple Storage Lands and cheap spells with Suspend and I didn’t want to take out anything that allowed me to go Aggro)
+3 Damnation (for Empty the Warrens)
Some people don’t like bringing Thoughtseize against this deck because it’s full of burn but I’m sure this is a mistake. By taking something from them you save much more than two life – you could very well save twenty if you hit something they would Spinerock Knoll you with.
Game 2 I had a mix of Vendilion and Thoughtseize that took away his two Grapeshots leaving a useless Swath. He had to kill the Clique and I played a Scion and he never got to deal me seven and use his Knoll.
Game 3 he mulliganed a lot and had Gemstone Mine plus Storage Lands as his only lands which posed him a dilemma. He ended up charging them but didn’t draw more lands and when I could deal with his two suspended Lotuses he didn’t have anything else besides Empty the Warrens for six which I can usually deal with even without Damnation.
This is another match in which Vendilion is so much better than the alternative (though I guess you can tap Knoll with Pestermite in response to the seventh point of damage) because it’s both disruption and a fast clock.
Round 3 - Utter-Leyton Josh - Faeries
I kept a hand with Visions and drew into Bitterblossom on the play. He didn’t have his own Blossom and there was nothing he could do. I apologize for the brief description but really all that happened in this game (and most of the games where one player had Blossom) can be described by "He/I had Blossom" and are just games of people trying to come back from a losing position without success.
-3 Vendilion Clique (It’s not bad but it’s your worst card)
-1 Mistbind Clique
He started with Vision and Blossom and I only had Vision. I sneaked in some damage with Mutavault and at the end of his turn before my Vision was going to resolve I played a Scion which resolved. He had four mana and I was going to have five. I had another Scion in hand and a Rune Snag so I was sure either my Vision was going to resolve or I was going to have double Scion which is one of the ways to beat Blossom (or is at least your best bet). He Spellstuttered my Vision which I allowed. He had two untapped lands left. I played Scion. He played Peppersmoke (ugh). I Rune Snagged it but he had another Peppersmoke to play with his one remaining land and after that I was never in it.
Game 3 I had Thoughtseize for his Blossom and then my own Blossom and that was that.
There are four kinds of games in the mirror match – either you have Blossom advantage or he has Blossom advantage or both players have Blossoms or no one does. When you are at the Blossom advantage the game is easy – don’t do anything and as long as you aren’t severely outdrawn you are going to win. When he has Blossom advantage your best bet is usually racing. For that you have to use your Mutavaults and Scions aggressively. You know that if you don’t do anything he is going to win. Look for spots where you can play Scion and attack with something to deal more damage before it’s killed and also look for spots to Cryptic Command all their blockers. This is one of the matches that you need to put your math to use – the opportunity where you’ll attack them to zero with Command is rare and sometimes you only have one or the other and you have to take it. If you see an opening to Command them to three and you aren’t dying the next turn chances are you want to do it – you’ll put the pressure on your opponent to do something (which he didn’t have because he had Blossom) and that’s the spot you want to be in. Suddenly he can’t attack with everything because of a counter-attack and you can react if he does something. Not a situation you want to be but as I said probably your best bet.
The third situation is when both players have Blossoms. In this situation you aim to resolve three things – Ancestral Vision Scion of Oona and Cryptic Command (speaking of which… I know some people like to take out Command in the mirror. I believe this is one of the worst things you can do). Vision lets you draw into the other two (and the very relevant Pendelhaven). You again have to use math and be careful with Scion and Command from both players. If you have Pendelhaven the pressure is on them – you just have to make sure you don’t get caught by their Pendelhaven either by leaving you without mana or by messing up all the blocks you had decided were good. If they have Pendelhaven you have to try to put the pressure on them anyway. You do that by taking some damage and then Commanding in or making an all-out attack that’ll only make Pendelhaven kill one of your guys and will deal some damage to him. Sometimes it’s better to wait until you both have more guys and then block say four of his with four of yours. That way Pendelhaven only saves one of his guys.
If no player has Blossom the game degenerates into an ordinary game of Magic. Cards like Mistbind Clique (and Vendilion Clique in game 1) suddenly start to matter more and Man-Lands are your usual route to victory. Vision is key here and a successful Spellstutter Sprite is a good advantage because it puts the pressure on them to do something. If I had to reduce the mirror to a single concept as you have probably noticed it’d be to put them under pressure.
Round 4 - Asahara Akira - 4 Color Reveillark
Round 4 I played against Akira Asahara. It was a feature match you can find here. The coverage team do a good job describing what happened and I don’t think I have anything to add. The match was very easy and he was never really in either of the games. Some people wondered why I hadn’t Terrored the Birds (he had a one land one Birds hand for game 2 which I knew of because of Thoughtseize) – I would have but he played a Saffi turn 2 and he would just save the Birds.
I had double Rune Snag and knew he had double Mulldrifter so I didn’t want to let him cast either of them so I saved Snag mana. In the meantime I took eight points of damage from Saffi. I’d like to point out that had my Black land been something other than River of Tears the correct play would have been to Terror the Birds in his upkeep – that way I’d kill Saffi (which I would have to do anyway eventually) while denying him the mana for Mulldrifter in case he drew a land because of summoning sickness.
I sided out 4 Scion of Oona for 4 Thoughtseizes.
Round 5 - Takasugi Ryouta - Faeries
Games 1 and 2 were split on Blossom advantage. Game 2 I had a window to win – it was later in the game and I had found my own Blossom and I Commanded him to a low amount of life but I counted on the fact that he hadn’t drawn his third Command in seven cards (from two Ancestral Vision). He’d drawn it and it killed me.
Game 3 we both had Blossom though he had two. I resolved a Scion eventually. He killed mine and played his but the damage was already done. I was able to attack with enough guys and when he assigned his blocks in a way to kill me the following turn (i.e. not blocking with his own Scion) I was able to produce another Scion to deal enough damage so that his Blossoms would kill him.
Round 6 - Mller Andreas - Reveillark
He was playing the UW version with Entities and Cryptic Commands (which were very good against me). I resolved a turn 2 Bitterblossom and suspend a Vision but failed to draw lands. By turn 50 I had five lands in play – if I’d ever drawn a sixth I’d’ve been in good shape because I could’ve backed Mistbind or Cryptic with Rune Snag but I didn’t. He resolved a Venser on the Blossom a Reveillark and some Momentary Blinks. At some point (he had around 10 mana) he tapped three for something and three more for Mirror Entity leaving him with four untapped lands. He was on three life facing Mistbind Clique and a Faerie Token. I had Rune Snag and double Command (and a Terror). I decided to Command the Mirror Entity and he Commanded back killing my last token but tapping out. I didn’t draw my sixth land but I Terrored his Mirror Entity anyway – he knew he was dead to Command if I drew a sixth land so he sacrificed everything via the Mirror Entity ability to get Aven Riftwatcher plus Venser (I think). I eventually played another Mistbind Clique and Command him anyway and he lost the game even though he had such a good board advantage – there is just nothing Reveillark can do if you draw your Commands and Mistbinds.
I boarded -3 Scion -1 something I don’t remember for +4 Thoughtseize. I’m not sure why I didn’t board all Scions out but I’m sure I kept one in because it was key in this game.
Game 2 started well – I Thoughtseized him and knew he had a Rune Snag a Reveillark and a Crovax. He Wispmared my Blossom and I stuck my one Scion. I had Command and Rune Snag in hand and five lands and I knew he had his own Snag – he had six mana too. Then someone asked me the score (we had been deckchecked and were low on time). That moved my mind away from the game completely (which is not usual as I’m a good multitasker) and I suddenly had no clue what was going on. I played a land that came into play tapped as my sixth and suddenly found myself facing Reveillark plus Rune Snag with only five mana. Fortunately he decided to play the Sower he had drawn – I think that it had gotten into his mind that Sowering a Scion was a good play and when he saw a window he went for it even though the Reveillark would have been clearly better. He played Reveillark next turn and I Cryptic Commanded it bouncing my own Scion. By then he had nine mana and I knew he has Crovax and Snag. My hand was Scion and Rune Snag. I realized that the only way I was going to win without needing to topdeck much is if I could stick a Snag in that Crovax – for that I walked my Scion into the Snag I knew he had. If he had thought about the situation much he’d’ve known I knew he had the Rune Snag and if I’m walking into it when I can play the Scion next turn with no danger it’s because I want him to play it. Again I think he had gotten into his mind that "Snag is dead late use it when you can" and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to Snag my Scion. He didn’t draw the tenth land and I Snag his Crovax for four which he now can’t pay. If he hadn’t Snagged my Scion there is no way I was winning that game. After that I drew a Vendilion a Spellstutter Sprite which I used on Mind Stone (I can’t Spellstutter anything else and we are both drawing from the top so there is no reason to give him an extra card that I won’t be able to counter) and eventually he succumbs to Mutavault plus Spellstutter with Pendelhaven plus Vendilion. It’s interesting to note that he didn’t block anything with his Wispmare until the last turn – he was afraid of another Scion perhaps? Even though I didn’t cast it he kept playing around it. Eventually I drew Mistbind and he died.
Round 7 - Wafo-Tapa Guillaume - Quick n’ Toast (or whatever they are calling it – I don’t know how those guys come up with names like these).
This was against Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and we went to the feature match area. The coverage doesn’t lie when it says there was a huge crowd – even before we got to play there were a lot of people watching. They remained loyal to our match even when we got deckchecked and even corrected the judge when he didn’t know who was who and where we were from (shame on you!).
I didn’t know exactly what he was playing – I knew it to be UBG with Mannequin and Cryptic Command but not much else. I had seen some of his game in a previous feature match but Wafo plays mostly foils and those reflect into the feature match lights and as I was watching from far away I couldn’t figure what most of the cards were.
I started game 1 with a quick advantage though no Visions or Blossom. I Vendilioned him and he had all lands and a Pact which he keeps and I Spellstutter. Eventually I had Scion Conclave and Pendelhaven as well as Spellstutter and Vendilion. I had Terror and Vendilion in hand still and the Conclave so I was fine with him topdecking Cloudthresher as it’d put him into a two-turn clock through my Vendilion so I pumped my Scion on the attack. He did topdeck the Cloudthresher. The following turn I Vendilioned his draw step and he had all lands (the coverage says I got a Mannequin but I’m almost sure that’s not correct – he had four lands). I Terrored the Cloudthresher and drew a Scion. I had a Rune Snag still. At this point I didn’t see how I could lose the game – if he draws another Cloudthresher I have Pendelhaven to save my Scion and then Scion + Conclave. He drew Oona Queen of the Fae. I Rune Snagged it so he paid and had three mana left. I attacked he used Oona’s ability and hit two Blue cards… I can never connect for another point of damage again. Had I drawn Cryptic Command I’d have won through Tap-Bounce Oona – there is no way he can stack something in the middle of a spell so the end result will be all the tokens tapped and Oona in his hand. I didn’t though and lost. I have to give him credit for managing his mana very well (he would put two counters on Wall of Roots just to be able to charge his storage land for instance) but I can’t help feeling it is a good matchup and it came down to him drawing his one Oona in the only possible turn (early game I would have countered it one turn earlier I would have Vendilion Cliqued it and one turn later he would be dead). That was a most disappointing game.
I sided -4 Scion for +4 Thoughtseize
Game 2 was equally frustrating. I didn’t have an early Blossom or Vision again and he Rune Snagged my Vendilion. We played Draw Go for what seemed like twenty turns then he Wispmared my fresh Blossom and had Cryptic Command for my Mistbind. I suspended an Ancestral and he had Cryptic Command for that too. Eventually he played his one Oona again and I didn’t draw any Commands so I died.
I think that if I ever manage to stick a Vision or draw one of my Cryptic Commands I win either game but it was not to be.
Round 8 - Choo Yong Han - Reveillark
This round I played against Choo eventual Top 4 competitor. He started with painland Gargadon and I guess he is playing some kind of Boros. Then he played Island Coldsteel Heart and I figured it was Lark. I resolved a Vendilion which gives me a huge advantage because I could play around his Wrath and Pact of Negation (did I mention Vendilion Clique is very good against this deck?!). He tried a Reveillark but I had a counter; he Pacted it but I had another counter which locked him for a turn though I don’t have much pressure. He stole a Scion with Sower and I attacked my Mistbind into both. I made a small mistake there – when he double blocked I should have assigned four damage to the Sower. He had a Gargadon so I doubt it’d have mattered as he’d just sacrifice both anyway but I should have given him the room to misplay.
There was a turn in which he played Careful Consideration with three lands left with no White sources. I took a risk by morphing two of my three Mutavaults to Spellstutter it knowing that if one of the two cards he drew after I looked at his hand was Mystic Gate he would be able to Wrath my four guys. He didn’t have it and I won next turn with three Vaults and my guys because I had a Terror for his Gargadon.
Game 2 I Thoughtseized something out of his hand and saw two Crovax but he never got to six mana. I played a Blossom to which he has no answer and just rode it from there countering everything he played. I Vendilioned him just because I could and he had three Crovaxes but no sixth land and I don’t think it’d have mattered if he did.
For this match I sided -4 Scions for +4 Thoughtseizes.
I ended the day at 7-1 in fourth place if I’m not mistaken. Pretty good but I still felt pretty disappointed with my loss. I went to eat at the Panda Express (as always) and after that we went to Godiva to buy one of their Milkshake things… I think it’s called Chocolixir – you should have one if you haven’t it’s like liquid chocolate. Chocolate Dark Decadence is the best.
Round 9 - Carvalho Marcio - Doran
Marcio had spent the previous 10 hours informing everyone that his deck crushed Faeries and I wanted to prove him wrong. That was left for game 2 though because game 1 I mulliganed to five and he made Land Birds Land Doran Land Thoughtseize and Bitterblossom on the play.
I boarded an assortment of cards out (-2 Scion -3 Vendilion -3 Spellstutter Sprite I think) for +3 Damnation +3 Masticore +2 Thoughtseize. I should probably have kept the Spellstutters looking back but I wanted Thoughtseize to deal with Chameleon and Doran.
Game 2 was pretty even – we both have Blossoms (though he has two) and we were both stuck on land except he had three and I had two. I resolved a Vision and I failed to draw a third. I draw it some turns later and play a Scion which shifts the balance of the game. He now can’t use Slaughter Pact unless he’s killing me because if I draw a fourth Land I Command one of his and he loses on the spot. There was a turn where drawing a fourth land would give me a win on the spot but I drew a Conclave. He attacked with everything including a Treetop and I couldn’t count on him not Pacting because I didn’t know if he’d drawn a Land or not. I made some double blocks that would win me the game if I drew a land for Command but I didn’t draw one and ended up losing.
Round 10 - van Medevoort Robert - Faeries
Game 1 I mulliganed to five and he made turn Vision turn 2 Blossom turn 3 Blossom plus Vision. Shrug. I still almost manage to come back with Scion and Mutavault attacks (which he was always chumping). I Snagged a Mistbind. He had plenty of cards in hand while I had a Spellstutter and a Terror… and he played a second Mistbind. I knew he was going to champion the Bitterblossom so I figured I might as well Terror it before he championed anything so I didn’t have to tap my lands and thus could keep Spellstutter mana up. My plan backfired when he decided to champion one of his Blossoms with a third Mistbind ruining all my chances of ever winning that game (which admittedly were very slim). I would not have won either way because he had Cryptic Commands and such in hand and would be able to race his own Blossom with a turn to spare.
Game 2 I had Thoughtseize for his Blossom and then my own. He was never really in it. There was a turn in which he Cryptic Commanded me and I could have Terrored my Mistbind to bring back Spellstutter but for some reason I thought I had a token championed so I didn’t. It didn’t make any difference because players can only play four Cryptic Commands in their decks and the moment I was allowed to attack I’d win but it was still the wrong play. Something I have to work on is that I usually play sloppily when I figure the game is won already and sometimes it costs me. It reminds me of a match in Grand Prix: San Francisco in which I had the game completely dominated but kept making mistakes and for every mistake I made my opponent drew the one card in the whole of Magic: The Gathering to punish me. Eventually I made another very big mistake but there was no card in Magic he could’ve drawn to punish me for it so god made me forget to pay Slaughter Pact to keep things fair. I think most people are like that – they play better when they are losing – but it’s not something I like and I should definitely work on it.
Game 3 we both had Blossom though he also had Vision which I couldn’t stop from resolving. He also had the Pendelhaven and I couldn’t manage to stick a Scion so I was never really in it.
Round 11 - Tsumura Kenji - Faeries
One thing you don’t want to do when you are 0-2 is play Kenji Tsumura in a mirror match but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
Kenji rolled a 20 but I obviously roll a 20 as well and end up winning it. Kenji was never really in any of the games and the coverage explains it pretty well – you can find it here. He took a bunch of mulligans and had a lot of land-light draws and even though he had four Vision suspended at one time (they took so many pictures of it but I can’t find any in the coverage) I always had the tempo advantage. It’s no use drawing seven cards when you are facing four guys and a wall of countermagic from the other side of the table.
Round 12 - Nassif Gabriel - BR Goblins
Game 1 he suspended two Gargadons one of which I Terrored. There wasn’t much he could do when I played Mistbind Clique and when my Vision resolved I had Command to tap everything and win from there.
I sided in 3 Damnations and 2 Redcaps for 3 Vendilion and 2 Scion. I had a mental lapse and for some reason didn’t side in Masticores – I guess I figured he was playing a bunch of token guys and it wouldn’t be as good but that’s just wrong.
He played turn 1 Knucklebone Witch and followed it with Shadow Guildmage. He attacked with the Goblin turn 3 and I decided to Spellstutter and block it because I didn’t know his deck exactly and it might grow too big (I had no removal in hand besides a Redcap) and I couldn’t counter anything he played that turn anyway. He played Mountain and Magus of the Moon and then another Magus (frown). I Redcapped one of them but couldn’t find the second Redcap for the other (or three Islands). Eventually he played an Earwig Squad and I knew the game was lost but rather than conceding I let him Jester’s Cap me because I didn’t board in Masticores this game and if he looked through my deck he’ll assume I don’t have them and side/play differently.
Game 3 I started very well with turn 1 Vision and turn 2 Blossom though my two lands were two Underground Rivers. I failed to draw a third Land and when I did it was a Mutavault. Only when my Vision resolved did I draw an Island and never a fifth land – I had two Masticores in hand and the game was likely over had I drawn it. I end up taking some damage from Commands and we arrived at the following situation:
He had Shadow Guildmage and Loxodon Warhammer in play as well as a Keldon Megaliths and seven other Lands all of which produced Black (Swamps and Duals). He had two cards in hand. I was at seven life with Island Mutavault and two Rivers in play and I had a Mistbind Clique (that got rid of my Blossom) and seven cards in hand. My Clique was tapped. Now if he equips the Shadow Guildmage and attacks I have to bounce it – I can’t afford to take four with those lands I have facing a Megaliths and a Shadow Guildmage. He tapped three Swamps and equipped his guy. He tapped another three Black-producing lands and played a second Warhammer still before attackers. Then he tapped his last Black land leaving just the Megalith untapped and played a second Shadow Guildmage. I countered that while bouncing the first one and he pinged me for one but didn’t have the mana to replay it – essentially giving me a free turn for no reason. Had he just equipped and attacked he’d have two Shadow Guildmages in play as opposed to the zero he actually had. I don’t draw a fifth land either way to play the Masticore and when he played his Shadow Guildmage I countered it while bouncing the Megaliths taking two on the process. His card for the turn was Marsh Flitter and there was nothing I could do about that.
This was another game I was very frustrated to lose as if I had just drawn a fifth land or if one of my lands didn’t deal me damage I’d’ve been in a very good position to win but I guess I can be blamed for not siding in Masticores game 2 (a resolved Masticore in any part of game 2 would have been game).
After this game I thought I was out of contention.
Round 13 - Ruel Olivier - Quick n’ Toast
I played a lot of strong opponents at this Pro Tour. We roll six dice to decide who plays first and we manage to tie twice – Stuart Wright was watching and said we clearly needed more dice. In the end he won it.
I didn’t have Vision or Blossom but I had a Vendilion Clique which he Cloudthreshered away. My second Vendilion (main phase) grabbed his Mannequin and I was able to get some attacks before he had any action. Eventually we ran into a turn where he drew tons of cards with Consideration but couldn’t do anything when I had Scion plus Spellstutter for his Pact. He muttered something like "man I was sure I had that game" and "if I can’t beat you when you don’t draw either Visions or Blossom…"
This time I sided differently – I removed -4 Rune Snag -2 Terror -1 Scion for +4 Thoughtseize and +3 Damnation. When I played against Wafo-Tapa I thought he had Tarmogoyfs and that plus Finks plus Cloudthresher plus any other card I don’t know he doesn’t play were enough to make me keep Terrors. After playing 3 games against the deck though I knew they didn’t have any and killing Oona was more important. I removed Snags because they had storage lands and the games usually went long enough that Snags were dead cards for me but not for them. By taking them out I make sure theirs are kind of irrelevant while keeping myself from drawing dead cards.
We played a very long draw-go game 2. I had a Blossom but he had Wispmare. I resolved two Visions and he evoked two Mulldrifters. I played another Blossom. I represented Rune Snag the whole game and he never walked into it. He also represented Rune Snag the whole game and I also never walked into it even though as of now I’m still not sure he had it – I don’t think he did. Eventually he played Oona and I forced a bunch of damage with Scion. I Commanded Oona back to his hand forced some more damage and Damnationed the board when he replayed it. Eventually we had the following scenario:
I had Mutavault Pendelhaven Bitterblossom and two tokens (one has summon sickness). He was at 4 life.
I declared my attack and he played Cryptic Command. I played Spellstutter Sprite. He played Cloudthresher. I asked him if he was responding to the ability or to the spell and he put the cards in the middle of the table (the Command then the Stutter then the Cloudthresher) in a way that it made obvious to me he was responding to the spell. I therefore pump my token with Pendelhaven and by the time the Sprite resolves I still have four Faeries and his Command is still countered which gives me the game (two two-power attackers and with him dropping to two from Cloudthresher). However Oli apparently wanted to respond to the ability.
We call the judge and he agreed with me – even though Oli wanted to respond to the ability (which would’ve been the good play) that’s not what he did. Antoine was watching the match and he agreed with me that it looked like Oli responded to the spell. I apologize to Oli but I’m not going to let it go at a Pro Tour – it might have been a genuine mistake had he forgotten the Pendelhaven. Anyway I end up winning and after that he apologizes saying he wasn’t trying to cheat or anything. I assure him that I never assumed anything like that which was the truth. After that we’re cool.
Round 14 - Gurney Michael - Reveillark
Both games were typical Reveillark games except he had Desert which he never got to use. I played a Blossom countered almost everything he played and then had Mistbind Clique for a Time Walk. He managed to resolve a Reveillark but never got to put it in the graveyard. There was a time where he attacked with Reveillark and I took four damage going to five life instead of blocking with my 2/2 Faerie because if I did he could have Deserted his own Lark and that’d be bad for me. I’m not sure he would remember to do it but as I didn’t actually know if he could do it and had to read the card I thought that’d serve as a pretty good reminder for him even if he didn’t know previously so I didn’t block.
I sided out 2 Scions and 2 other cards (likely Spellstutters) – I wanted to keep two Scions in because he had Desert and they are your best answer to that even though they are not very good against the rest of the deck or against Sower.
Game 2 I Thoughtseized him and saw Mind Stone Teferi Porphyry Nodes Pact and Reveillark with only two lands (one a Calciform Pools). I took the Mind Stone. He developed his mana and eventually drew another Pools but was afraid to run anything into Rune Snag (or the Nodes into Spellstutter) and by the time he tried Teferi I had enough tokens to Spellstutter it. He Pacted but that made him remove the rest of his counters and when I Terrored the Teferi he was at too short of a clock to do anything.
Round 15 - Pascoli Mario - Mono Red
This match was against Mario Pascoli who came second in Kuala Lumpur. He won the die roll (which is huge in this match) and started with Maniac. He played Magus of the Scroll turn 2 but had no land to follow up – I’m against keeping one-land hands. I don’t care how many one-drops I have unless one of them is a Ponder I’m not keeping it. He apparently didn’t have a problem with that though. He drew a second and a third land but by this time I’ve already built up. He had two cards in hand. I had a Mistbind in hand but if I play it in his upkeep he’s just going to Magus of the Scroll me with two cards. So I waited until he drew his card – that way if he was going to Magus me he had a higher chance of missing. He did Magus me and named Flame Javelin which he hits – and that’s where he won the game. I dropped to four. One turn later he attempted a Flame Javelin which I Commanded taking one from Underground River. He untapped and plays another Javelin and as my only counter is Spellstutter there is nothing I can do about it. If he’d had any other burn that didn’t cost six I’d have won but I assume he had two of them since he named them with Magus (why else would you name Flame Javelin? It’s not something you want your opponent to know about when you can just name Mountain which he dropped that turn).
I sided like thus: -4 Scion -4 Command for +3 Damnation +2 Redcap +3 Masticore.
His game 2 was kinda slow. I Rune Snagged a Marauders and he didn’t have a big clock. I played Gnomes which stopped his attacks and he played Magus of the Moon which is actually good because he had two Mutavaults and one other non-basic (I can’t remember if Megalith or Encampment). It was so good in fact that I played Masticore one turn later and I was actually debating whether I wanted that Magus dead this turn or not – I had a basic Island after all – but he scooped before I got to choose.
Game 3 I drew three of my Gnomes and when I was able to Vendilion Clique a Siege-Gang Commander out of his hand he just drew into more lands and burn and there wasn’t much he could’ve done. I finished the game at around 12 life with Gnomes Mistbind two Spellstutters Mutavault and Conclave in play to his six lands.
After I won this round I was surprised to see I was 9th. My tiebreaks had jumped a lot in one round and I suddenly found myself realistically in contention.
Round 16 - Brodzak Jan - Merfolk
I think my game 1 against Merfolks was the best I played in the entire tournament if you don’t count a mistake I made while tapping my mana. I know it sounds counter-intuitive that the game I played best was the one I made an almost game-losing mistake but I just knew everything that was happening that game and it really felt like I played well the whole game other than that.
He started the game with Cursecatcher Silvergill Adept and Merrow Reejerey which I Rune Snagged just to kill the Cursecatcher. Most of the time people don’t play spells against opposing Cursecatchers but I think that in this situation you just want to kill it as fast as you can. He played a Banneret the following turn which I Spellstuttered and I then had Spellstutter plus Pendelhaven for defense. I managed a Scion and a Terror for his Reejerey and suddenly the game didn’t seem so bad. I bounced his Reejerey ready to counter it the next turn but I mistapped my Mana and ended up with Mutavault and Sunken Ruins so I couldn’t do anything about it. He played a Ponder looked at the top three cards didn’t do anything drew a card and played another Ponder. He did it so fast that it looked like he didn’t care what the other two cards were – after all drawing Ponder and getting to see a third card is better than shuffling and drawing a random one. So I Cryptic Commanded the Ponder. I was hoping that he’d have two lands or bad spells on top or that he would at least get the wrong order since he didn’t get the chance to change the order of anything the first time obviously assuming his second Ponder would resolve. When I played Vendilion his next turn I saw he had drawn yet another Ponder. His hand was Reejerey Ponder and Island. He had six Lands in play. Now normally I’d take either the Reejerey or the Ponder – after all taking the Ponder and giving him a random card instead of look at the top three and the choice of a random card has to be better. But I didn’t take anything. The reason for that is that I had a Rune Snag for four which would be otherwise dead in my hand and he had seven Mana. I was hoping to counter either the Ponder or the Reejerey that turn with the Snag (he couldn’t play both and pay) and I figured trading my useless Snag for the top card of his library was a good deal. He ended up not playing the Ponder that turn though – either he was playing around the Snag which I wouldn’t deem likely given the rest of his plays in that match or he decided he needed mana to activate both Mutavaults or he just forgot about it and had a quick pass.
I end up drawing into another Rune Snag and I had to use both when he Pondered into a Mirror Entity the following turn. I attacked for one or two turns and when I drew Mistbind Clique he was dead.
I sided -4 Snag -3 Scion +3 Damnation +4 Thoughtseize. On the play I’d have kept the four Snags and removed three Seizes and the fourth Scion. The reason for that is that Rune Snag is rather subpar on the draw – either they have Cursecatcher or they have a Banneret that lets them play a spell and still have mana to pay. Had I known he’d keep the Entities and sided in Reveillarks I’d probably have changed the way I sideboarded.
I Thoughtseized him early and took his Lord of Atlantis and he was left with Entity Reveillark and Sage’s Dousing in hand. I played a Blossom and he played Entity. On his fourth turn he played another Lord of Atlantis (I don’t have any Islands though – both games I had Islands in hand but never played them) and hit me for three. I mainphased a Mistbind (I knew he had Dousing) and can do nothing to stop his Reveillark from resolving. I Terrored his Mirror Entity – he considered sacrificing everything and bringing back Entity and Lord of Atlantis and if he’d done so I think I just lose but he decided against it. I attacked him with Mutavault. He stopped to consider his blockers and I was puzzled that someone had played 16 rounds with Merfolks and was never once reminded that it gives opposite Mutavaults Islandwalk. He asked me "that’s a 2/2 right?" and I had to point at his lord to which he said "oh!" and took 3. He attacked me with Reveillark but that made me chump it with a Blossom token and attack for four with Mistbind as well as the Mutavault – it would’ve been better if he’d just held it back I think. Some turns later he Commanded my guys but I had another Mutavault after combat to stay alive regardless. On his last possible turn he attacked with his Lord of Atantis and nothing else into my board full of creatures. I blocked with one token and attacked with Vaults and multiple fliers on my way back.
I had done it – it was out of my hands now. I thought I was going to make it and I’m not sure if the multiple congratulations I received were good or bad. I had to keep reminding people… "not yet." Still it was no surprise when I heard "and in 8th place with 36 points from Brazil…" which didn’t make it any less awesome when it happened. This was the first time I needed that to happen – in my other Top 8s I always knew I was going to be in. We went to take pictures and I think I was so much happier than everyone else there (everyone else knew they would be in the round before. and had already had time to absorb the fact) that I didn’t care about the glacial wind outside. After that I happily took the multiple congratulations and went for something to eat. Everybody else had already eaten (yeah thanks for waiting) but a friend came with me anyway.
That night I didn’t play a single game of Magic. Maybe I should have… I just felt that relaxing sleeping and theorizing were the best things to do. I discussed my prospects with my roommates and we arrived at the following conclusion:
I was pretty favored to win the quarter-final matchup. Shuhei didn’t have anything scary maindeck and his sideboard paled in comparison to mine for the matchup. We figured that the Rune Snags were bad on the draw (he could go turn 1 Elf turn 2 two- or three-drop turn 3 two-drop and pay for Rune Snag – or he could just play around it anytime he felt like it by attacking with Man-Lands and such) and the Scions were always bad (not necessarily bad but worse than everything else) so we had eight easy cards to remove when on the draw. On the play though the Rune Snags were good. I didn’t have anything else to remove. I didn’t know what to do nobody knew what to do and I admit I still don’t. Maybe I should have played to figure it out but I had already played enough with the deck and still didn’t know what to cut and the difference was so minimal that I didn’t want to get influenced by specific games (like "this card won me this specific game so it’s good") since I wouldn’t play that many. I didn’t want to cut the Vendilions – his best plan against me seemed to be Man-Lands and Vendilion Clique traded with those and also with Vanquisher while also providing an easy way to get rid of Garruk if he kept those when I was on the play (which I don’t think he did).
People seemed to think that I was unhappy to have Vendilions instead of Pestermites in this matchup – it was quite the contrary. As I said up there I’d rather kill a Treetop or a Vanquisher than tap it. Still I had to take out something and I decided to take out 4 Scions 1 Mistbind (the deck had gotten pretty heavy with tons of high casting costs and fewer Faeries – I know Mistbind is awesome against Elves but it seemed the best cut) 1 Damnation (on the play I figured I wouldn’t need it as much and I didn’t – I ended up discarding them to Masticore the game I won – though it’s not something I’m happy to do) 1 Vendilion Clique (I have to take out something!) and 1 Spellstutter Sprite (again I really like it but I had to take out something). I know it’s a lousy plan but I couldn’t figure out anything better. If you have any suggestions let me know.
You can watch the games on the coverage so I’m just going to make some general comments about them. In the first I mulliganed a hand I deemed too slow on the draw into a one-lander into a one Rune Snag and four lands hand and I never came back from it. Shuhei gave me one life when he played Garruk after attacking with Goyf and I had a second Rune Snag (and no Command mana so playing it first seemed strictly better) but it was irrelevant. In the second game I kept a four lands two Commands Masticore hand – I would not keep this on the draw but on the play it seemed nice enough – the only way I think I can lose on the play against his deck is to not draw enough lands and this had four and two Commands to buy me time for Masticore to dominate. Despite what you may think from watching the video I always thought I was going to win this game. Two Blossoms is appealing but once you’ve played enough with Faeries you’ll know that playing two of them against a deck with Cryptic Command is usually a losing bet as it was (I’m not saying he would have won had he only played one – he probably wouldn’t – I’m just saying double Blossom is not something you should be that scared of).
The third game was the one I felt I could have won if only something came out a little different. I could have drawn a fifth land for Masticore to stabilize but instead I drew three Masticores. If at any moment I draw Damnation it becomes almost impossible for him to recover. Some people asked why I had bounced the Vanquisher over drawing a card but my reason is that he only had three lands and I didn’t know if any of his two cards in hand was an Elf – I thought it likely wasn’t. That’d buy me enough time to afford to take hits from Goyf when I played Masticore. He did have another Elf though so in the end it would’ve been better to just draw a card though I’d probably make the same play if I had to do it again. It’s also worth noting that I didn’t play my Pendelhaven earlier because he was in aggro mode and I couldn’t afford to be Wastelanded before playing my Redcap so I knew I was risking giving him an extra Mana and Pendelhaven activations for one turn if he drew his but it’d be better than losing a turn myself with an inferior board position.
Game 4 was academic just like game 1 – there wasn’t anything he could’ve done once Masticore came into play.
Game 5 was well… that was that. My hand was pretty good and I thought I was going to win but the moment I had to attack my Mutavault into his Garruk instead of Terroring a guy was the moment I figured I had lost it. In retrospect I think I should have killed the Vanquisher with the Redcap on the assumption that he wouldn’t Overrun me with fear of Command but that would hardly matter. He also could’ve double Pendelhavened me for two or three turns with Garruk; he didn’t and I can’t really see the reason but it also hardly mattered. I had a good draw but I needed better than good to beat his superb draw and it just wasn’t there for me. To answer BDM’s inquire on why I hadn’t Vendilioned the Treetop the reason is that Vendilion Clique doesn’t take out lands…
Some people asked if I felt disappointed but how could I? Five rounds earlier I didn’t think I was in contention then I managed to sneak it in the last minute. I lost to a very good draw sure but that happens – in BDM’s column I said that I would be happy with a top 8 and I am. I also liked it when I watched the video – it seemed like I had suddenly risen in most people’s opinions. I was made a Feature Match quite a lot and I received a lot of positive feedback. I think this PT was a turning point on how I think about myself in terms of the game. So am I disappointed? Of course I’m not. Honestly would you be?
After the Pro Tour we did some shopping and on Tuesday morning I went home. I’d only arrive 36 hours later due to weather problems but I guess I have to live with that. When I was at the airport going for my connecting flight in Miami there was a line for the woman to check your plane ticket. In front of me in the line was a blond girl. She approached the check-in woman and handed over her ID and the woman nearly fainted from excitement.
"Oh my god so nice to meet you! You have such a beautiful voice! I love your songs! I’m so glad to meet you!"
It seems that the woman in front of me was Kelly Clarkson.
She moved on and it was my turn to hand in my plane ticket. The once starstruck check-in woman pointed me toward the stairs and waved at the next person in line. Apparently she wasn’t glad to meet me.
So much for being a famous Magic player…
My trip is over. I get asked a lot of I would change anything in the deck and the honest answer is no – it performed pretty well and the matches I lost were hardly the deck’s fault – they were either mirrors which can’t be fixed or bad draws (not drawing lands mostly) or mistakes on my part and I don’t think I can blame the deck for any of those problems. It’s true that the deck gets a little heavier when you side in Damnations and Masticores so maybe a better sideboard plan - one that removes your heavier cards - can be found but I honestly couldn’t find it.
If you ask me to explain why Faeries didn’t do better you’ve got me – I can’t explain. I don’t see any reason why Faeries performed below expectations. I guess it just happened. In my eyes Faeries is still the best deck and what I would play again if the Pro Tour happened again tomorrow. In my Top 8 profile they asked me what my worst matchup was and I said the mirror. While the mirror is obviously not your worst matchup I can safely say that I would rather play against anything else because everything else you can beat and it’s not as out of your hands as the mirror. When the deck you fear the most is the mirror you know that deck has something going for it.
I hope you enjoyed this report and I hope that in almost 20 pages of article I was able to explain why I made the decisions I made. I also hope it was enjoyable to read. As always I’ll be on the forums if you need me.
Thank you for reading!