Well as we progress into the year there are numerous happenings goings-on in the magic universe. We have spoiled some new Rise of the Eldrazi cards, and even more will be released in the coming weeks, and players are writhing in the wake of the recent tightening of the Reserve List. However, we still have a little bit more time left in the PTQ season for Pro Tour San Juan, and so a few players are still focussing in on the Extended format trying to win a trip to Puerto Rico, including myself. The Alberta PTQ is this weekend, and my local play group are taking the 3 hour drive down to Calgary, the home of teammate Sean, to play.
I will fully admit that I had settled on a deck to play about 3 weeks ago, until last Saturday, when I found and modified a list which I like even more given the local metagame. So while I tweak my PTQ list, I thought I’d share the brew that I came up with beforehand, which is still a solid deck, it’s just more metagame-dependant.
The origin of this deck came from a logical inquiry. Let us look at the holy trinity of cards which have made blue-black decks so popular in Extended.
First up is Dark Depths, the land which rocked Extended in October due to its potential with Vampire Hexmage and the ability to produce a 20/20 token in the early turns of the game. A blue-black control deck was piloted by many players at Pro Tour Austin.
Next, we have Thopter Foundry, whose interaction with Sword of the Meek creates an engine potent enough to win games as soon as the combo is left un-dealt with. This combo was paired with Tezzeret the Seeker in a sort of toolbox deck back in 2009.
Finally, we have a favourite from last standard season, Bitterblossom, the card that became the bane of many players for two years. This card remains popular in extended, as many players continue to sleeve up the blue-black menace in the hopes of reliving the glory days of faeries. While not the mono-blue monstrosity of last year, it remained a popular deck even after the rotation of Riptide Laboratory.
In the year 2010, these separate strategies have converged, and we see decks like Gerry Thompson’s Thopter Depths dominating extended, and Thopter Faeries being the most commonly seen build of faeries for the last few months, using the combo to mitigate the life loss from Bitterblossom. Looking at these, I began to see that something was missing.
In the above triumvirate, the three strategies have all combined except for Dark Depths and Faeries. I thought to myself: “they’re in the right colour combination, so why not?” I reasoned that the potential for an early game kill could be assisted in part by the control skeleton of faeries, which aims to kill the opponent more slowly through the production of Bitterblossom tokens. As well, the always-awesome Spellstutter Sprite would be able to protect a Marit Lage from the ever-present Path to Exile, which ruins so many nice Dark Depths kills.
So I began to develop a skeleton of the deck. What we wanted were the pieces necessary for the two halves of the deck to work in isolation, but for multiple cards to serve roles in both game plans. Lets look at the core of the Dark Depths combo,
The first two cards are what is needed for the combo to go off, and the Urborgs are necessary in order to enable the possiblitie of a turn-two Marit Lage and a turn 3 kill.
Now let’s look at what a faeries deck needs to win:
These should all be obvious, but I want to make a note about Cryptic Command. This cards is obviously amazing, but what I wanted to do with this deck was slightly different than what a normal faeries deck wants to do. A Cryptic is a heavy investment, because you have to keep 4 mana open, including 3 blue sources. This means that we will often need to decide between leaving mana open when our opponent might not present an opportune time to play Cryptic, which leaves our mana fallow for a turn. It it my contention that it is possible to better use this mana, perhaps in setting up our combo or improving our board position. For example, we can cast something akin to a Vendillion Clique and still have mana open for a removal spell. We will almost always cast the Clique anyway, and it improves our board position and destabilizes the opponent’s plans. If they do not present an opportunity to play removal, we have still changed the board since our last turn. The game’s progress should ideally change every turn, and in this precise build of faeries, I’m not sure how great it will be.
So now that we have the two skeletons, we must decide on our multi-purpose cards, which can help either of the game’s timelines depending on the board. The first such card is Muddle the Mixture. Not only does it stop removal spells and the odd trick or counterspell, but it transmutes at 2. Going the Dark Depths route, we can tutor for the all-important Vampire Hexmage. If we’re playing the more controlling game, we can improve our grasp on the game by nabbing Umezawas Jitte or even a Bitterblossom. This helps us streamline our game plan to hopefully ensure the success of the deck.
Another such utility card is Damnation. It’s inclusion in the maindeck allows us to wait for our opponent overextend, and then pounce with a Bitterblossom or some other beater. Alternatively, it can be used as a way of clearing the path for a Marit Lage against pesky flying blockers, such as those generated by an opponent’s Bitterblossom.
Well, without further ado, the decklist, as I would build it right now.
Blue-Black Faerie Depths (Original, I know).
One decision I made that is questionable in this deck is the inclusion of Scion of Oona, rather than something like Mistbind Clique. I find that it’s often a counterspell against something that threatens your Bitterblossom or a Spellstutter Sprite while its ability is still on the stack. As well, it gives you a huge advantage against deck where there are lost of 1/1s attacking you (Elves, Faeries I’m looking at you), and it makes you much more favoured against those types of decks.
One of the reasons I say this is a deck that only works in a certain metagame is that the deck is more or less cold to a resolved Night of Souls Betrayal. For this reason, I tested a variety of builds running Sprite Noble in addition to Scion of Oona, and I mulled over the thought of using Bad Moon to amp up Hexmage and my Faerie tokens. However, in the end, I determined that the legendary enchantment was seeing almost no play, and that I could get away with something close to the above list. Unfortunately, due to the recent rise in popularity of Ultimicia aka Grixis Haterator as well as Living End decks, this decks performance ahs dipped slightly. Again, it’s a metagame call on what lords you play.
Everything else in this deck is pretty standard, except for one card in the sideboard. Leyline of Singularity is a card that’s been growing on me as of late, due to its ability to shut down the Thopter Foundry combo from turn 1, as well as the incredible hinderance it is to elf decks who need multiple Nettle Sentinels to combo off. However, this card does hurt our Bitterblossom plan, so if we bring in Leyline we need to either board out the blossoms or be very careful how we play them.
So let’s go over the decks matchups, shall we?
This is the reason I decided not to play this deck in the PTQ, as our meta is extremely Zoo-infested. This matchup is extremely bad, although it varies with the type of zoo we’re facing. Kyle Boggeme’s Blood Moon Zoo is almost unwinnable, because our mana base is not as stable as we would like. The blue Zoo variant is not much better, as their Bant Charms make Marit Lage’s life expectancy almost zero. The problem with this matchup is that you’re always playing catchup, so I don’t recommend this deck if you expect a lot of Zoo. However, the Damnations and Threads of Disloyalty will make you more resilient post-board, but Volcanic Fallouts are always going to be a problem.
This matchup is fairly good. Game one it is about 50/50, where the best player will usually win, as it can go either way. Post-board, the deck gets much stronger with the addition of Extirpate and Leyline of the Void. Even the blue Leyline can be brought in to wreck the thopter combo, and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty for the second two games.
Again, one of our favoured matchups. They often can’t stand up to an early Marit Lage, and our flashy Scion of Oonas allow for big combat reversals. In games 2 and 3, we get Darkblast, Leyline of Singularity, Thoughtseize, Extirpate and Damnation. In addition to our mainboard Umezawas Jittes and Spellstutter Sprites, we should be a heavy favourite to win out.
Well it’s getting late and I have to be up early for the PTQ tomorrow. For those of you who don’t already, follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan for round by round updates, and feel free to contact me in the comments or via email at zak -AT- power9pro.com.
Until next time, cheers!