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By: HydraLord, Charles Sutphin
Jan 05 2009 7:11pm
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There are a lot of decks getting hyped up in Standard right now. Obviously one at the forefront of the pack is Five Color Control. Numerous internet pundits have identified it as the undeniable best deck of the new Standard. I'm going to deny it right now.

Faeries is the best deck in Standard.

What? You want more than that? Fine. I'll justify myself. First though, I'll give my Faeries list so people know where I'm coming from.

4x Scion of Oona
Spellstutter Sprite
Mistbind Clique
4x Vendilion Clique
Cryptic Command
Agony Warp
Broken Ambitions
Faerie Conclave
Secluded Glen
Underground River
Sunken Ruins
Leechridden Swamp


Parts of the deck are obviously familiar.  No one is questioning Bitterblossom. I'll justify the things I think warrant it.

Scion of Oona
Some people have been cutting this card for other things. That seems pretty foolish to me, given the current state of things. Almost all of the popular decks right now have spot removal, whether its
Bant Charm or Eyeblight's Ending or Oblivion Ring. Scion of Oona is incredibly good Agony Warp*, which is very important now, as the mirror is more and more common. Scion also serves as a very useful function as a racing tool. Nothing shaves turns off an opponent like Scion and a team of Bitterblossom tokens. This also saves Bitterblossom from Esper Charm. Don't forget about that. Just because this list has the self-respect not to play white doesn't mean that there aren't people who are going in that direction.

Maxing out on Vendilion Clique and Thoughtseize

Playing some number of either or both of these is hardly controversial. Most Faeries lists probably play five or six main or start a couple and board in some more. So why am I started all eight when almost no other list does so? This is a lesson I've taken from the Swans decks that got played over the summer. One of the big incentives to that deck was the the cards that people had planned on beating you with just didn't come out as much with the full double set of disruptive cards. That's really, really good news for you.
In the mirror, the important cards are
Bitterblossom, Cryptic Command, and Scion of Oona. To a lesser extent, Spellstutter Sprite is good. You've got a bunch of ways to stop those cards from resolving.

In the same way, Toast decks will often keep a hand on the strength of a
Firespout or a Jund Charm.  If you can strip out that card, their speculative keep looks at lot more...speculative, let's call it. Thoughtseize and Clique let you play much more fearlessly. When you can see what you're up against and dismantle part of it, it's a lot easier to make the correct decisions.

Some people complain that Clique is legendary and, as such, doesn't merit the full four copies. Those people are wrong. This card is a 3/1. It can trade with significant creatures on defense, clearing the way for your second copy. Alternatively, your opponent can't just let it live forever. Three a turn is a very legitimate clock. That means that most of the time, you'll trade it for either a creature or a removal spell. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Yeah. I think so too. Pretty much, if you're really stuck with Vendillion Clique in hand, you're likely to be winning anyway.

Lastly, some people have been saying that Clique isn't great in Standard because decks are highly redundant in Standard. Gerry Thompson certainly made that argument, and I don't think it holds water. Numerous opponent's don't have redundant cards. There aren't really "redundant"
Cloudthresher's or Bitterblossom's. Sure, some things can be replaced with the new card they draw. But even when they might be, they aren't always. You can't win 'em all, but you can win a lot.

Last thing on this I swear. Don't forget that
Ajani Vengeant is getting more popular of late. Vendillion Clique is excellent at killing an Ajani. It's a significant surprise attacker at the end of turn, a uniquely useful thing against Ajani and any other Planeswalkers.

Agony Warp
I've seen
Terror, Nameless Inversion, and even Eyeblight's Ending in this spot. None of those seem close to as good as Agony Warp. Terror is rarely much better than Agony Warp, and doesn't hit an important segment of creatures. The only real reason to play Nameless Inversion over Agony Warp is to, I don't know, smooth your Secluded Glens? That seems very weak. There's basically no reason to play Eyeblight's Ending over Terror. Hitting Doran is about the only thing likely to matter, and that doesn't seem common enough to justify the extra mana. Lastly, only Agony Warp can really generate card advantage. It's pretty easy to kill a creature, then downsize the front side of another creature and block it. That's super strong against the mirror and against Kithkin. This card gets five stars.
There's also a
Terror. See below.

Broken Ambitions
Only one, becuase I found that I wanted five removal spells. Four Agony Warps plus one
Terror was the best I could figure out. This should maybe be Shriekmaw, but I liked having the extra Instant. Faeries is a deck that wants to keep mana untapped as much as possible.

I needed another spell. I quickly determined that I wanted another counterspell variant. I really went back and forth on it. I tried out
Remove Soul, Negate, Broken Ambitions, Cancel, and even Spell Snip. Yeah, that last one was...loose. I'm actually not 100% sure that Broken Ambitions is right, but I want to be able to counter Bitterblossom on turn 2 every now and then. That narrows it down to Negate or Ambitions, and I just hate Negate in too many matchups to play it main. If Five Color Control was the top deck, it might be different. If I were to swap it for something else, it would be Cancel. Obviously wish it were Mana Leak, but what can you do?

Time for a brief rant. When
Mana Leak and later Rune Snag left Standard, people complained that Blue was being demolished. They say the same thing almost every year. It's never true - barring Onslaught Block - and I wish people would stop saying it. It just makes you look short-sighted. Blue has been the best color for most of Magic's existence, and that isn't going to change. At least, probably not. If Mike Turian couldn't stop it, no one will.

26 Lands
The better question here is: why don't more people run 26? Do you know how good lands are? It's insane. Casting spells is really, REALLY good times. Remember: in lots of matchups, Faeries wants to position itself as the control deck. Control decks have to draw lands. Your card quality is very high, so there's not really any excuse for losing to mana screw if you can help it. Playing an extra land helps with that a lot. This is especially true when you notice that fully nine of these lands contribute to your offensive capabilities**. Playing an extra lands lets you trade your man lands with slightly more impunity, as well as letting them operate somewhat better. Activating
Faerie Conclave with Command mana up is freaking awesome. Some people have been saying that Conclave is bad because it comes into play tapped and stifles the tempo that this deck is trying to establish. While I can sympathize with that position, I ultimately disagree with it. It doesn't seem too painful to just mulligan if it will be a big issue for a particular hand. On average I find that these lands help more than they hurt.

The Sideboard
Most of this isn't that interesting.
Infest is super insane against Kithkin and some red decks. I was so happy when they reprinted it. If this and Damnation were both in print, it might be a real question which to play. "Luckily" we don't have to make that decision, so just play four of this.

Negates are mostly for Toast. I wanted to bring something in against them. While the matchup is already strong game one - especially thanks to 8 discard spells - Toast is never a deck that you can count out. Negate is also good against Planeswalker Control that sometimes gets tossed around.

A lot of decks I've seen play
Flashfreeze in the board to help in the admittedly bad RDW matchup. I don't like that strategy. I tried it out, but found that actually casting Flashfreeze equated to a win only 50% of the time. While it helped, the margin was low. I would rather cast Ponder that provides a bigger edge in the mirror, which I find to be significantly more popular than RDW. It's all about opportunity cost.
So that sums up my list. Now, given that, why do I say Faeries is the best? There are sevreal reasons.

1) Cryptic Command
This card is unreal good. I would say that it's the best card in Standard, no question. Cryptic maintains stable board states, swings losing ones, and is exactly what you want to draw most of the time. There are only a handful of cards that I can confidently say that about. I would easily play seven of this. Numerous pundits have said that the first thing your have to do in this Standard is play Cryptic Command or come up with a very good reason not too. I find the latter is a lot simpler, and typically better. This is the biggest reason I wouldn't play a deck like White Weenie in Standard this year. I would just feel underpowered, not to mention hopelessly vulnerable to opposing Commands.

2) Tactics
Faeries is one of the strongest tactical decks currently in Standard. The more instant speed cards you have, the more value additional instants can give you. Essentially, you're giving both yourself and your opponent options. You have the option to wait for your opponent to act before making the optimal response, and they have to option to avoid one of your instant speed threats by walking smack into another one. You can exploit the mechanics of the turn structure and the stack extremely well with this deck.

If you were to pick a deck to give an edge to a strong technical player with a good mental game, this would be it. If you can get your opponent to try to play around
Cryptic Command and Agony Warp and Scion of Oona...well, it'll probably be awkward for them.

Playing a random
Broken Ambitions too is nice. Sometimes you cast it game one and your opponent will spend the rest of the match in fear of a card that is only there as a one-of.

3) Sometimes, You Just Don't Lose
Decks like Toast require constant work to hold the edge they have until they can win the game. Faeries certainly has hard games where you have to play very tightly and trap your opponent. It also has games that it opens
Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom or Bitterblossom into Mistbind Clique. Those games are really nice, since you don't really lose them unless something unusual happens. Really, any time you draw Bitterblossom gives you a huge edge. I'm a big fan of free wins like that. Consistently putting a major onus on your opponent is the best way to win. Faeries is good at that, especially for a deck with as strong a control core as this one.

4) Strategic Flexibility
This is the most subtle incentive, and is one that I've been thinking more about recently. Specifically, there are two main roles to take in a match of Magic: the beatdown and the control. Knowing which of these to assume is crucial to success****. The great thing about Faeries is that it can flexibly shift from one role to the other. When you're in a position where you have a board advantage, you can press it hard and end the game. Alternatively, you can make some good trades and slowly build advantage like a control deck. Knowing how to balance these roles is the key to playing Faeries well. While it is definitely tricky, it's a lot better than being stuck trying to come from behind against Toast as a beatdown deck. Ever done that with
Spectral Procession? It isn't easy. Faeries, on the other hand, let's you push for small edges with man lands and such. Eventually you draw more good cards and win unless they have a good beatdown draw.

That gets to the last point. Faeries has good matchups. The top three decks are Toast, Faeries, and White Weenie. Toast is tight but you've got an edge,  especially if you're a strong player. Practice will help with this. The mirror is obviously more or less a coin flip, and this list has a small edge. The discard and Ponders are good. White Weenie is almost a bye much of the time, especially once you get Infest in. That's definitely a recipe for a powerful deck.

So there you go. Play Faeries.


* That's actually among the most savage blowouts I can think of for two mana. What, like a 5-for-1?
** Okay, Leechridden Swamp doesn't contribute a lot of offense. It's still surprisingly good in the mirror and against Toast, and it's absolutely correct to play one. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
*** At least mine always do.
**** If you haven't read Who's the Beatdown by Mike Flores, go read it right now. Seriously...open a new tab and go find it.


by Bluecry(Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 01/06/2009 - 07:30
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Not was, will be in Feb.  

Addendums by HydraLord at Tue, 01/06/2009 - 08:10
HydraLord's picture

This article took a while to actually post, so I wanted to point out that I still think Faeries is the best, despite the rise of B/W tokens and other less aggressive white decks. Yes, those are bad matchups. But Faeries is just much better against the field. It didn't put four decks in the top 8 of Worlds for nothing.

@ Klemzy: Thanks for the support!/
@ Volcanic Fallout: That actually doesn't scare me that much. Sure, it will be good. But I can't imagine either an offensive red deck that can roll with the White decks, or a controlling red deck that really scares Faeries.

by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 01/06/2009 - 15:00
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I love how popular faeries was and still is, makes all the easier for me to expect and beat them.

Not for long... by Bluecry(Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 01/06/2009 - 07:29
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Volcanic Fallout

Instant Uncommon
Volcanic Fallout can't be countered.
Volcanic Fallout deals 2 damage to each creature and each player.


Plus there was an uncounterable answer from Green as well but could not find it.

You don't say! by Klemzy at Tue, 01/06/2009 - 05:07
Klemzy's picture

~Nice Article~
There is no doubt that Faerie deck is the best. Atleast I think so. I use it as standard build and I got to say I was never so happy with any deck as with this one. It gets nice starts and then just simply controls the enemy. Im using it, I think its great and I tried over 100 for this years Standard.