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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jul 02 2015 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!  In this article I will be taking a look at Modern Masters 2015 reprint Bitterblossom in its natural habitat, UB Faeries. 

Bitterblossom.jpg

The Fae deck was very powerful in Standard & Extended back in the day, which was part of the reason Bitterblossom was initially banned in Modern and only unbanned relatively recently.  Let's take a look at the decklist I will be working with:

The deck uses powerful hand disruption and countermagic to control the game, while using Bitterblossom and its Faerie companions to see out the game.  There are numerous ways to build the deck and my list is inspired by various lists I found searching online.

DECK TECH

Creatures

Spellstutter Sprite
Spellstutter Sprite
Spellstutter Sprite is a staple of the Faeries deck and a very powerful component of it.  Having a 2-mana evasive creature that also counters a spell is something very difficult to find elsewhere.  It also works extremely well with Bitterblossom where the tokens and the enchantment itself all add to the number of Faeries you have and so you can counter bigger and bigger spells.

Snapcaster Mage
Snapcaster Mage
Not fitting into the tribal theme but in many ways too good to pass up on.  Snapcaster Mage provides tremendous value allowing us to rebuy our hand disruption, removal and countermagic.

Vendilion Clique
Vendilion Clique
The most popular and powerful Faerie, or Faerie collective I guess, Vendilion Clique has a powerful disruptive ability and is an aggressive 3/1 in the air.  Taking your opponent's most important card out of their hand can be very powerful, particularly when combined with other hand disruption in our deck.  This deck actually gets to look at the opponent's hand a lot and it's interesting how much you can sculpt the game with that information and the opportunity to disrupt your opponent's hand.

Scion of Oona
Scion of Oona
This is a random one-of that I'd seen in another list that I thought was worth trying out.  Scion is a Lord for our Faeries and can also protect them from removal.  Unfortunately it is very vulnerable in itself and can't protect us against Zealous Persecution, Pyroclasm or other sweepers we are concerned about.  I'm not entirely sure how to feel about it - while it is nice to have a Lord to reward us for the tribal nature of the deck it can feel quite low impact and as I mentioned is very vulnerable unless you can play it in multiples.

Mistbind Clique
Mistbind Clique
Mistbind Clique is another powerful member of the Faerie tribe.  It's slightly expensive at 4-mana and requires another Faerie to Champion it in order to be effective but being able to Mana Short your opponent on their upkeep and leave behind a 4/4 flying body is amazing.  Ensuring no further spells get cast on your opponent's turn and then swinging in with a 4/4 and any other Faeries you have on board can be a game winning tempo play.

Clique can also be used to prevent you committing suicide to your own Bitterblossom.  As Bitterblossom is a Tribal Enchantment it counts as a Faerie so can be used to Champion Mistbind CliqueBitterblossom is a good choice to Champion the Clique generally too as it is more difficult for your opponent to destroy your Bitterblossom in response that one of your Faerie creatures that dies to ordinary removal.

Spells

Inquisition of KozilekThoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek/Thoughtseize
This is our hand-disruption suite.  Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize are very powerful one-mana discard spells that help us strip our opponents hand of their most important cards.  The knowledge gained from seeing our opponent's hand is also very useful in a controlling deck like ours as we get a better impression of what threats we want to use our counterspells on and if we want to strip anything out of their with Vendilion Clique.

Bitterblossom.jpg
Bitterblossom
Bitterblossom is the card that really makes the UB Faeries deck.  Bitterblossom is an extremely powerful token generator, creating a steady stream of 1/1 flying Faerie tokens at the cost of 1 life per upkeep.  A Turn 2 Bitterblossom is very difficult for opponents to combat as the advantage gained over multiple turns can prove insurmountable. 

Mana LeakCryptic Command
Mana Leak/Cryptic Command
The counterspell suite is made up of Mana Leak and Cryptic Command, two of the best and most powerful counterspells in the format.  Leak is a two-mana answer to a variety of problems.  Cryptic Command does just about everything you could want it to and is an incredibly versatile spell - counter a spell, draw a card, tap their team, bounce a permanent, it can just about do it all.

Artifacts

Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Fire and Ice
Swords work very nicely with Bitterblossom as it spews out a new potential Sword-wielder every upkeep.  You can use any Sword here really and you may wish to change depending on the metagame or the affects you value more.  Personally, I like Sword of Fire and Ice as the combination of burn and draw is great and Protection from Red protects from a lot removal, most notably Lightning Bolt.

Lands

Mutavault
Mutavault
A pretty simple two-colour manabase allows us room for a nice number of manlands.  Mutavault is very powerful in its own right but the fact that is a Faerie on activation also means it can power up a Spellstutter Sprite and be a Champion for a Mistbind Clique.

Creeping Tar Pit
Creeping Tar Pit
Tar Pit is our other manland and also provides us access to both of our colours.  Tar Pit provides a powerful 3 damage a turn once activated and as it can't be blocked there is very little opponents can do without a removal spell.

River of Tears
River of Tears
I generally don't mention duals but River of Tears is an interesting one.  We don't necessarily need it but it can produce Black mana on your turn, for hand disruption spells, and Blue on your opponent's turn, for countermagic, which means it's usually a good fixer.  It's less consistent that some of the other options available but it works well.

SIDEBOARD
My sideboard is largely improvised but it's worth taking a look at the possibilities:

DuressDispelNegateSpell PierceSlaughter PactDisfigureVictim of NightSword of Light and ShadowRelic of ProgenitusSpellskite

  • Duress gives us access to additional hand disruption for use against Control and Combo, where it can particularly effective.
  • Dispel, Negate and Spell Pierce are additions to our countermagic suite, again useful against Control and Combo decks.
  • Slaughter Pact, Disfigure and Victim of Night help complement our removal suite against creature heavy decks.  Each one has its own strength and weakness and can be boarded in accordingly.
  • Sword of Light and Shadow is another Sword that is obviously good against heavy white or black decks and also is a potential source of life gain.  I chose Sword of Light and Shadow because I happened to own it but really you could choose any Sword as a potential option as all have their own upsides.
  • Relic of Progenitus helps deal with graveyard shenanigans - from Snapcaster Mage to Goryo's Vengeance.
  • Spellskite is a sideboard all-star helping out in a number of matchups but particularly against Splinter Twin and Burn.

One card that I didn't have a chance to try out but is common in Faerie sideboards is Sower of Temptation.  Sower is a little vulnerable but extremely powerful, being able to steal opposing Tarmogoyfs and Tasigur, the Golden Fangs.

GAMEPLAY
So let's take the deck for a spin shall we:


Our first matchup is against GR Tron.  Mistbind Clique works really well here as GR Tron rarely has anything to do at instant speed and so you can steal a whole turn away from them and deprive them of the huge amounts of mana they are working so hard to produce.


Next up we have a Mirror Match.  My opponent had a very different setup for UB Faeries than myself, which in itself is quite interesting.  The opposing deck uses more planeswalkers, in the form of Jace Beleren and Liliana of the Veil, and some cantrips like Repeal.  I think I prefer our build but there are some good ideas to take away here.


Our third matchup is against Grixis Delver.  In Game 1, Bitterblossom alongside Sword of Fire and Ice are just far too much for our opponent to deal with.  Particularly as we are able to pick off our opponent's Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage etc.  In Game 2, however, we get completely blown out by a Turn 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang.  Game 3 goes long with no early action for our opponent and our deck proves that it plays the better long game if given the time develop.


Our final matchup is against Jund.  Jund has seen a rise in popularity recently with people moving away from Abzan lists.  This was quite a strange matchup, Games 1 and 2 came down to manland battles with my opponent beating me with Treetop Village and Raging Ravine and I got my own back in Game 2 beating my opponent with Creeping Tar Pit after my opponent got mana-screwed.  In Game 3, we struggle hard through our opponent's removal and a Liliana of the Veil but manage to struggle through with Spellstutter Sprite and Sword of Fire and Ice, which finished our opponent along with our manlands.

The removal heavy nature of Jund does make life difficult but our manlands are very helpful here.  I think we were lucky that our opponent wasn't able to drop more early pressure, which would have made this match more difficult.  That said I feel like we controlled the game well and ultimately got the result.

THE HISTORY LESSON
I was still out of the game during the time that Faeries was dominating Standard and Extended but let's take a look at a Lorwyn Standard Faeries deck shall we:

Faeries
PT Hollywood Top 8 Decklist by Paolo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Creatures
4 Mistbind Clique
4 Scion of Oona
4 Spellstutter Sprite
3 Vendilion Clique
15 cards

Other Spells
4 Ancestral Vision
4 Bitterblossom
4 Cryptic Command
4 Rune Snag
4 Terror
20 cards
Lands
2 Faerie Conclave
4 Island
4 Mutavault
2 Pendelhaven
3 River of Tears
4 Secluded Glen
2 Sunken Ruins
4 Underground River
25 cards

Vendilion Clique

This decklist saw PVDDR to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Hollywood in 2008.  One of the most startling things is now little the deck has really changed.  A lot of the tools are already there with Cryptic Command, Mutavault and Thoughtseize all available from Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Block.  All we've really done is upgraded the countermagic and removal.  Also we don't have access to Ancestral Vision as it is banned in Modern so in some ways the deck is worse in Modern that it was back then.

The fact that this deck can be ported to Modern with very few changes and still be a perfectly viable deck is probably a good indication of how good Faeries was during its time in Standard.

CONCLUSIONS
Control decks tend to have it rough in Modern.  As Reid Duke has previously noted, there are so many powerful things going on in Modern it's best to have a proactive rather than reactive strategy.  Having answers to all the threats your opponents can throw at you is a hard game to play.  UB Faeries is still a good Control deck in Modern and Turn 2 Bitterblossom is still an incredibly powerful play and gives the deck that more proactive mindset.  However, I think there are better options available in Modern.  I question whether it is worth overlooking Snapcaster Mage and Tasigur, the Golden Fang for the Faeries suite of cards.  Now that said you could still run both in a Faeries deck but at some point you are significantly devaluing your Mistbind Cliques and Spellstutter Sprites. 

Certainly a very interesting deck and I like how much tweaking and changing you can do and still have a very solid deck.

That's all I've got for this week.  I'm quite excited about some of the cards from Magic Origins but I'm planning on waiting for the full spoiler to do a full article on all cards I like.  Look out for that and more Becoming A Modern Man articles to come.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)