Modern Time – Faeries, Zoo, Gifts

Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag… Let’s build some new Modern Magic the Gathering decks! (Seriously, who needs an introduction? Decklists! We want, decklists!)

First up, a new Zoo, modeled after the old Channel Fireball “CounterCat” decks with [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], and the newly unbanned [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] main:

[deck title= CounterCat by Jay Lansdaal]

[Creatures]
2 Kird Ape
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Wild Nacatl
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Spell Pierce
3 Boros Charm
2 Lightning Helix
4 Tribal Flames
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
1 Breeding Pool
1 Forest
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Deathmark
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
1 Negate
1 Seal of Primordium
1 Torbor Orb
2 Aven Mindcensor
1 Bant Charm
2 Ranger of Eos
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

This deck is blisteringly fast and can burn people out from high lifetotals. [card]Tribal Flames[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] is half someone’s lifetotal for two cards, which is obviously absurd. As for the card choices, I took an old CFB list and updated it with two of the best cards for this kind of deck: [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] and [card]Boros Charm[/card]. To accommodate these, I cut the original [card]Path to Exile[/card]s and two Lightning Helixes. This makes the deck a bit weaker at removing creatures, but the damage output is increased, and [card]Boros Charm[/card] does a great job against cards like [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] as well.

I can also imagine wanting [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] in here, in case people start playing more spot removal and fewer [card]Pyroclasm[/card]s, but for now I’d keep the [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card]s right where they are.

If you’ve never played a deck like this before, the hardest part is sequencing your lands correctly. You are trying to use your fetches so that you can cast all your spells in the order you want to cast them, while getting towards five different basic land types as quickly as possible. You only have a single black source, and it comes with a red source, so keep that in mind. Against control and certain combo decks, you want to fetch double blue so you can use a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] to flashback a [card]Spell Pierce[/card]. But in general, any extra sources you can fetch should probably be put towards the red-mana count.

Now that we’ve got the cat out of the way, let’s move on to the other unbanning: [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. While [card]Bitterblossom[/card] can slot into quite a number of decks, the biggest suspects are BW Tokens and its marquee deck, Faeries. However, as you might have noticed, nobody in the world will be able to play that deck anymore, because every affordable card that could possibly be played in the deck has been bought out by overly fanatic speculators. Nice 700% price increase on [card]Secluded Glen[/card]s, guys. Too bad you’ve collectively priced 98% of Magic players out of the deck-now who’s gonna buy your $30 [card]Mistbind Clique[/card]s? It sure as hell won’t be me, because I never had the heart to take the deck apart after qualifying for my first Nationals with it! (Yay, for sentimentalism!)

As for a list for Faeries, I have some thoughts based on my own experience with the deck and numbers from when it was played in Standard and Extended. Basically: you NEED four-ofs of [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and Cryptic Command; you really want four-ofs of [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] and Spellstutter Sprite; you probably want about four two-mana counters and about four removal spells; and whatever space you have left after playing 25 – 26 lands you can use for discard, [card]Scion of Oona[/card]s, and other value cards like [card]Jace Beleren[/card]. If you don’t play Scions, but want a more controlling build with more removal, you might be able to shave a Mistbind and a Spellstutter, but I’d advise starting with something like this:

[deck title=Faeries by Jay Lansdaal]
[Creatures]
4 Mistbind Clique
3 Scion of Oona
3 Vendilion Clique
4 Spellstutter Sprite
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Peppersmoke
2 Spell Snare
3 Thoughtseize
1 Agony Warp
4 Bitterblossom
3 Mana Leak
2 Dismember
1 Jace Beleren
4 Cryptic Command
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
3 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Mutavault
1 Tectonic Edge
4 Secluded Glen
2 Watery Grave
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Deathmark
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Spell Pierce
2 Spellskite
2 Spreading Seas
2 Drown in Sorrows
1 Scion of Oona
2 Sower of Temptation
1 Batterskull
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The removal and counters obviously depend on what kind of creatures you expect. I could easily see Remands over [card]Mana Leak[/card]s, or some combination of [card]Go for the Throat[/card] and [card]Smother[/card], in place of what I have here now. [card]Peppersmoke[/card] used to be mostly important in the mirror, and with [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] banned, running it over [card]Disfigure[/card] seems like mostly a free roll. [card]Dismember[/card] is probably the best removal spell, as it can cost one mana if it needs too and kills bigger creatures too.

Back when this deck was good in other formats, I’ve also seen people splash for [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], which, with fetches still in the format*, is actually possible (though you’d need to play more fetches than the above list). Red would also let you play [card]Electrolyze[/card], which is still awesome and helps with losing the card advantage that [card]Ancestral Vision[/card]s and [card]Preordain[/card] would bring in earlier versions of the deck. I’ve also heard people talk about splashing green for [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], but beware of Scions: making [card]Bitterblossom[/card] hexproof in response to the Decay counters your [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] even though it says it can’t be countered. There’s no messing with the rules!

The reason the above manabase is built the way it is, with only a few fetches, is because going straight to 15 to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] someone is really painful when [card]Bitterblossom[/card] is one of your key cards. I want about 14 untapped, turn-one black sources for [card]Thoughtseize[/card], while playing as close to 22 blue sources as you can for turn-four [card]Cryptic Command[/card], and taking as little damage as possible. There’s no [card]Polluted Delta[/card], and I’d rather not play Swamp + [card]Sunken Ruins[/card] if at all possible, so I ended up with the above. It is possible you want [card]River of Tears[/card] instead of [card]Darkslick Shores[/card], but I’m not sure. It does help that is casts all your black sorceries on your turn, and on your opponents turn helps cast [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and you blue flash creatures and instants.

Now that we’re on the topic of fetches: with [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] sent on a trip to bansville, we can expect them to actually stay in our graveyard! That’s good news for people who like to play with [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], which is once-again a force to be reckoned with in Modern. Aside from the CounterCat deck I mentioned earlier, one of the few decks that was still playing the Knight despite [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] being legal was the following deck:

[deck title= 5-Color Gifts by Dmitriy Butakov]
[Creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Deathrite Shaman
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Sun Titan
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
3 Path to Exile
1 Raven’s Crime
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Life from the Loam
3 Liliana of the Veil
3 Lingering Souls
4 Gifts Ungiven
1 Unburial Rites
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Blood Crypt
1 Breeding Pool
1 Forest
1 Gavony Township
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
3 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Temple Garden
1 Treetop Village
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Watery Grave
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Tectonic Edge
2 Celestial Purge
2 Negate
2 Stony Silence
1 Timely Reinforcements
2 Creeping Corrosion
2 Slaughter Games
2 Thragtusk
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Replace the [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]s with [card]Noble Hierarch[/card]s and you haven’t lost all that much. Your opponents will miss their [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]s a lot more when you start reanimating Elesh Norns out of nowhere or start ripping their hand to shreds with the powerful [card]Life from the Loam[/card] + [card]Raven’s Crime[/card] combo. (Both combos are fetchable by [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card], grabbing just two cards to put them both in the graveyard.) Other than that, the [card]Slaughter Games[/card] might be a tad ambitious without Deathrites as another source of five-color mana. You could also play [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]s instead of [card]Noble Hierarch[/card]s, which helps out with the heavy mana requirements in this deck. It costs two, which means you won’t be casting a turn-two Liliana off of it, but I don’t know how often that’ll happen with [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] either. Perhaps we should add a [card]Twilight Mire[/card] in the place of the [card]Blood Crypt[/card] if we go the Hierarch route.

Life from the Loam, while just a tutor target here, might also become the centerpiece of a real deck again without the Shaman around. And if a real deck is too much too ask, perhaps someone can brew up a sweet Swans of Brynn Argol-Seismic Assault-Life from the Loam combo deck for me to take to Modern FNM?

Personally, next to testing the above three decks, I will be trying whether one of my old brews is playable again. The following is an update to the first deck I ever built for Modern, which I played to a respectable finish at the first Dutch Modern PTQ:

[deck title= Gift that Man a Sword by Jay Lansdaal]
[Creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Lotus Cobra
1 Eternal Witness
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Sun Titan
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Faith’s Shield
3 Path to Exile
3 Remand
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Gifts Ungiven
1 Unburial Rites
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Breeding Pool
1 Celestial Colonnade
3 Forest
1 Gavony Township
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Island
1 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
1 Sejiri Steppe
1 Tectonic Edge
2 Temple Garden
4 Verdant Catacombs
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Path to Exile
1 Spell Pierce
2 Negate
1 Celestial Purge
2 Stony Silence
1 Creeping Corrosion
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Thragtusk
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Do you like it? The basic plan is to play a Knight or Geist on turn two and start the beatdown. You can add Swords or Elspeth to apply extra pressure if necessary (a turn-two Geist off a [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] into turn-three Elspeth threatens lethal on turn four). Then, you keep mana open. You might Remand a threat, Shield a beater from removal, remove a blocker with [card]Path to Exile[/card], or-the best yet-you might Gifts in response to them trying to stop your beatdown plan and plop down an Elesh Norn on your turn (or an Iona or [card]Sphinx of the Steel Wind[/card] after sideboarding).

Sometimes you can even be a sort of ramp deck, ramping into a [card]Sun Titan[/card] or Elesh Norn with the help of fetchlands and [card]Lotus Cobra[/card]. [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] helps there too. If all else fails, you can Swords up a few dorks and try to get there that way. If that all doesn’t convince you this is the best deck ever, how’s this (post-sideboard) sample hand for you:

Samplehand1

That’s all for now folks, happy brewing to all of you!

Jay Lansdaal
iLansdaal on Twitter and MTGO

*I still wish they had left [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] and banned fetchlands, but, hey, I guess that’s not going to happen anymore. When are you reprinting them, Wizards? Standard players would like to play Modern too.