How My Clique Got Their Wings Back: Smuggler’s Copter and UB Faeries in New Modern

Written by Zach Cramer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

How My Clique Got Their Wings Back: Smuggler’s Copter and UB Faeries in New Modern

Zach Cramer

Zach is a Northeastern Magic grinder who specializes in eternal formats. When building decks, he has a strong preference to Blue cards, toolboxes and combo decks. With a recent RPTQ finish just short of an invitation, Zach hopes to take his skills to the next level and play on the Pro Tour.

Greetings all! It’s been a little while since my last article. I have plenty of drafts on my laptop but a recent string of disappointing finishes and a lot of opinions that felt like recycled content have left me to discard them by the wayside. I value writing for this website and I don’t want to clog up the space I’m given to express my opinions with lackluster content. If I’m gonna write something, I want it to be meaningful and helpful to the community. I’m hoping to put out a lot of great content in the next few weeks and that starts with this article. Today, I’m going to talk one of my favorite decks and some of the new innovations that may lead to it being a real player in the rising metagame.

As I’ve said before in my articles, Modern is a weird format where you can bring one of twenty decks to a given tournament and realistically assume you have a chance of taking a tournament down. It’s a format of picking a lane, choosing a plan and knowing the heck out of it. I’ve tried a lot of decks and one that I’ve always loved is UB Faeries. UB Faeries almost gave me an SCG Classic Top 8 back in the days of Splinter Twin. But, after Twin was banned, Faeries lost its best matchup and as Burn picked up popularity and control decks disappeared, Faeries faded back into obscurity. What Faeries has done and continues to do well is disrupt the opponent and prey on their lack of information. If you have four mana, you can either be representing a Mistbind Clique to tap down all their lands, a Cryptic Command to counter their spell and gain a large tempo swing, A Vendilion Clique or Spellstutter Sprite to disrupt a key card in their plan, or have absolutely nothing and still be bluffing it all! It’s a deck that rewards a player with a strong poker face, a penchant for identifying key turns, and someone who can manage resources well. Faeries can be aggressive, faeries can be control, or Faeries can be a pile of useless cards. It’s all based in how you play with them. In the last year, UB Faeries has slowly accrued a few key cards to become a viable choice going forward. In this last set, we’ve finally gotten the key card to reshape and reinvigorate the archetype:

In the last few sets, Faeries has gained access to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to improve the Kitchen Finks and Burn matchups. They’ve gained cards Like Collective Brutality, which give redundant copies of Bitterblossom or Ancestral Vision extra value, when they would otherwise rot in your hand. And, they’ve recently reaped the rewards of the unbanning of Ancestral Vision to gain an edge in midrange, control and Jund pseudo mirrors. However, the most important card the Faeries has gained since the Bitterblossom unbanning is the aggressive, yet resilient threat that has been ravaging Standard: Smuggler’s Copter. Everyone’s least favorite Millennium Falcon impersonator showing up as a 4 of really speaks volumes to what this card can do for Faeries. Copter enables us to sculpt card quality far more reliably while also offering us an early threat that further synergizes with Bitterblossom, giving our summoning sick Faeries pseudo-haste and the added benefit of a Merfolk Looter ability. With these cards in mind and a very exciting 5-0 list in a MTGO League, I was ready to give Faeries a shot again. Below is the list I played:

There are some notable changes from the 5-0 list that you can see here.

Firstly:
The Disruption:
-4 Inquisition of Kozilek +2 Thoughtseize +1 Snapcaster Mage +1 Nameless Inversion

The disruption package I chose was more of a nod to having cards that were better when being on the draw. I wanted to be killing more things and being more oriented to beating big mana decks like Tron and Scapeshift, which are usually rampant in side events. Let me be clear: This change was mostly wrong. As I said, Faeries has a lot of trouble with Burn, and with a small number of removal spells, proactively clipping early creatures out of your opponent’s hand with Inquisition of Kozilek is important to the list and I would very likely go back to 4. The Snapcaster Mage was quite excellent and will also stay in the list. The reason for Nameless Inversion is because I’ve always liked to have 15 Faerie spells in my decks to reliably lead on an untapped Secluded Glen for a turn 1 Vision or discard spell. I think 14 is something you can get away with, but, I’ve always tried to play it safe. Thankfully, the 4 Darkslick Shores, 4 Islands, 4 Polluted Delta, and Watery Grave give you plenty of lands that also enter untapped on turn 1 to cast an Ancestral Vision, which is a vital consideration when building the manabase.

Secondly:
The Late Game:
-1 Ancestral Vision +1 Tasigur

This change is correct. Part of the reason why we like Smuggler’s Copter is because it eliminates the detriment of having the wrong answer. Any control mage knows that being glutted with the wrong cards, be it a 2nd Bitterblossom, a discard spell against a hellbent opponent, or a dead counterspell can be game ending. Similarly, Vision is mostly useless in the late game because their impact takes so long to come to fruition. I’ve long advocated for a more impactful late game card, but, Tasigur was, unfortunately not the answer. Snapcaster, on the other hand, is absolutely impressive. While Tasigur is clumsy, Snapcaster is efficient and smooth. I’ve long enjoyed Snapcaster’s interaction in a Cryptic Command deck. However, what IS important about Tasigur is that you CAN fit a delve spell into the list for virtually no cost. The 5-0 list above had a Murderous Cut and I’m likely returning to that as well.

Thirdly:
The Removal:
-1 Smother -1 Murderous Cut -1 Spell Snare +1 Go For the Throat +1 Doom Blade +1 Mana Leak

This change is mostly correct. I think 2 Smother is too many in a field that includes a reasonable amount of Bant Eldrazi. Going forward, I’ll likely leave the Go for the Throat or the Doom Blade at home based on how much Jund/Affinity I expect. A nice interaction with Go for the Throat is that you can effectively dodge Spellskite, as they cannot redirect the spell. Nifty, huh? The reason I cut the 3rd Spell Snare was because of the nature of a Faeries deck. When you play Faeries, you can play virtually all of your threats at instant speed. That means when your opponent takes their turn, your hand could include almost anything. The value of showing your opponent 1 Mana Leak means that they will have to respect that you may have more than 1. I believe Mana Leak is better in matchups like Infect and Living End where you have little to no targets for Spell Snare. Additionally, since all of your faeries cost at least 2 mana, you will commonly be representing Mana Leak, even if it’s not in your hand. While I believe this change does give you a lot of angles, I believe Spell Snare is so strong in poor matchups like Burn and Affinity that you may have to lean on the wisdom of the 5-0 deck.

Fourthly: The Sideboard:
-1 Leyline -2 Countersquall -1 Disfigure +1 Darkblast +2 Damnation +1 Negate

These changes were almost wholeheartedly with the Eldrazi matchup in mind. The second, and more embarrassing reason would be because I didn’t have a Countersquall or my 4th Leyline on me at the time. As I’ll detail below, Faeries has a very difficult time with hyper aggressive decks, but, also has difficulty with big creature decks. Damnation is a delightful answer to powerful Eldrazi boards and helps you mitigate some of the value that Eldrazi Displacer and Matter Reshaper offer. I like 2 Damnation a lot, but, might consider going down to 1 if I need the extra room for the deck. Damnation is also a suitable off-the-top time walk against Dredge. The Darkblast is another pet card of mine, which I wanted to add to have a recurrable answer to the Affinity and Infect creatures. One reason I believe Faeries would be great going forward is because it is well positioned against Infect because of its high density of flash threats, pointed removal spells that aren’t power/toughness based, and their ability to play counter magic.

Matchups:
Very Positive: Living End, Jeskai Nahiri

These are matchups where Spellstutter Sprite and flash threats shine. All of your cards are operating on all cylinders here. Discard, Flash Creatures, Counters, and Vision are all generally fine here.

Positive: Infect, Grixis Control, Grixis Delver, Blue Scapeshift, Jeskai Thing

These are matchups where many of your threats shine, but, some are weaker. The key in these matchups is to shift games in your favor by limiting the effect and frequency of your opponent’s 2 for 1s. You have better cards than them and your synergy engines often put you over the top, but, if you run out of cards, you’ll likely be in some trouble in these matchups.

Even: RG Tron, RG Valakut, Jund, Abzan, Ad Nauseam

These matchups are either true midrange matchups or awkward mana acceleration matchups. Spell Snare is quite weak against RG Tron, Vision is very slow against combo and big mana, and you can’t profitably interact with Ad Nauseam’s post-board Leylines in your UB deck. However, you do have cards that often swing the matchup in your favor and if your opponent stumbles at all, you can usually take the match.

Unfavorable: Merfolk, Kiki Chord, Ana Company

These matchups are bad because of the high threat density and the resiliency of creatures. Kitchen Finks, Voice of Resurgence and Matter Reshaper are incredibly difficult to profitably interact with because it’s virtually impossible not to 2 for 1 yourself. The key here is lean on powerful sideboard cards like Damnation, Leyline of the Void and Kalitas to swing these matchups in your favor.

Bad: Burn, Bant Eldrazi, Affinity, Elves, Bogles

These matchups are just awful. While your sideboard helps, many of these matchups just don’t care about the things you are doing. Without drawing multiple sideboard cards or gaining a massive skill advantage over your opponent, these matchups are difficult to win.

The list going forward:

While it seems like I may have just deviated back to the old Faeries list that appeared in the above article, I’d like to stress how important it is to try new things , even if they don’t end up being the right thing. I’ve really liked the adaption of Snapcaster Mage and the other cards I tested may see their way into the deck in due time. For now, I’ll be crewing up my Looter Scooter with a Faerie Rogue token and having a great time. Until next week!

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