ThoughtSeizing the Opportunity: Ninja-Faeries
By Mitja Bosnič on January 7th, 2010 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now
Well, I'm back. I’m sure you’ve missed me, but such is life, with school and other dumb things taking precedence over my Magic commitments. To make it up to all of you, this article will feature my first interview ever! I promised, and I will deliver. Just bear with me. And keep reading after you’ve seen the following decklist:
I'll let the man himself talk about his masterpiece before I take the mic back and make fun of his card choices …
First things first, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your recent Magical experience in Trieste.
Hello dear reader(s)! My name is Nejc. I have been playing our beloved card game since Exodus and I especially enjoy older formats like Vintage and, as astute readers amongst you might have guessed by now, Legacy. The latter was also the reason for us to visit Trieste in hopes of participating in as large a tournament as possible. In the end the field consisted of 71 players. After seven rounds, I was 5-1-1 and in the top 8, where I lost in the finals. The only blemish on the experience came in the finals, when both judges misinterpreted a card and that cost me a game. (The interaction was Maze of Ith and ninjitsu, where one can bounce the creature untapped by Maze.) On the other hand I applaud the organizer’s decision to keep the prize pool for 100 players. All and all we had a lot of fun and played some great Magic.
The deck you chose was obviously something below the radar. What led you to choose such a rogue build?
I have been building and testing similar decks for quite some time now. I built this deck as part of our testing roster and ended up playing it because we ran out of time to polish other rouge decks we were working on and it performed well enough in testing to merit taking it to a large tournament.
They'll never see it coming.Are there any notable card choices you would like to remark upon? How about cards you tested out that failed to make the eventual cut?
I would say that the deck formed around the idea to abuse Ninja of the Deep Hours and Standstill/Æther Vial synergy. At first I tried, as I am sure many of you did, to pair Ninja with Ornithopters and faeries costing a single blue mana. While this version performed well it was not tier one. I also noticed that there was no gain in recasting Ornithopter returned to the hand by a ninja. So I replaced them with Spellstutter Sprites which in turn led to Zephyr Sprites becoming Cloud of Faeries. They could at least be cycled once returned to the hand. Later I splashed white for Swords to Plowshares and green for Tarmogoyf because they turned out to be just too good not to include (surprise, I know!). While testing, I also noticed that Mutavaults do not do enough, since Sprite can counter many things on its own and that the ability of Mishra's Factory to pump itself or other factories is invaluable when trying to hold off early offense. I switched them and never once regretted doing so. I do not think it necessary to explain the counter-magic since it is pretty similar to other threshold-type decks.
Do you have any cool plays from the tournament you would like to share with us?
Since this deck has a lot of synergies there are a lot of cool plays and I can tell you a few I made in Trieste.
In the quarterfinal I played against Canadian threshold. We were in the deciding game and he was low on life but started to stabilize board position with Tarmogoyfs. I had three active Mishra's Factories in play, three other lands, Æther Vial with two counters on it, and a Spellstutter Sprite. I animated my Factories and attacked with everything. He blocked two Factories and tried to burn out the unblocked one with a Lightning Bolt. In response, I tapped my Vial and put Cloud of Faeries into play, untapped two factories which pumped the unblocked one to survive the bolt and deal lethal damage.
Another cool play was when I attacked with my 2/3 Tarmogoyf (instant, land) into an opponent’s active Mishra's Factory. He decided to block and pump it before damage. I responded with cycling Cloud of Faeries making my goyf 3/4. No one expects that.
When playing against Enchantress, I had Æther Vial with two counters. I already played a Meddling Mage naming Enchantress's Presence but decided not to play the other Mage I had in my hand, slowing down the clock but giving myself options if he drew a Sterling Grove. Which was exactly what happened a turn later. When he cracked the Grove at the end of my turn to find Oblivion Ring, I vialed into play my Meddling Mage naming his only out. The game was won in short order after that.
I am sure there were more cool plays but having not kept a written record, these are all I can remember now.
One last thing and I’ll let you go – are there any improvements you would make to the deck if you were to play it again? Or is that a secret since GP Madrid is drawing closer?
I have no problem sharing Tech. I was very happy with the maindeck and would not change anything. The only match up that is almost un-winnable first game is Ichorid. If that archetype is popular in your field you should definitely tailor your sideboard to deal with that. I also wish that I could squeeze a Umezawa's Jitte or two in the maindeck, but alas can find no place for them.
Anyway, thanks a lot for your time and I wish you lots of luck in the future!
Thank you and good luck with your articles!
I played a similar deck in Extended but, as Nejc had said, I focused on cool stuff like Ornithopters that were just too weak overall. This gives me some experience with the deck from the past and a resolve not to let those mistakes be repeated. That said, let’s go on!
Okay, obviously, the deck is awesome and the little actual testing I’ve done proves it. Once you’ve won a game after mulliganing to four (Island, Cloud of Faeries, Spell Snare and Spellstutter Sprite with several more and a land off the top), you start to see all the interactions the deck has. From ninjitsuing the Spellstutter to Vialing in Goyf, your opponent never quite knows what to expect. You can play like an aggro-deck, a control one, or the aggro-control combination. This gives you great flexibility during the game itself, but adds another layer of complexity to playing, as your ability to choose the correct approach to the opponent’s deck (and current situation) will be correlated directly to your success.
Another important aspect is the sheer power some card combinations represent – the classic Standstill tricks with Æther Vial and Mishra’s Factory; second turn Cloud into Spellstutter; simply playing great cards like Tarmogoyf and Swords to Plowshares. Many decks employ these combos, but this one does a great job of connecting them all into a coherent strategy. Sitting behind a host of counterspells (some of which bring a small body as a bonus) while your team beats down, draws cards and/or just annoys your opponent is a sound strategy, one that has been proven time and time again in Legacy by the numerous aggro-control decks. Standstill is just a mana shy of Ancestral Recall when used correctly, while it can also serve as a speed-bump against a wary opponent.
Despite what I’ve just said, I also think the deck has some weaknesses: first, Goyf is the only animal big enough to really make a dent on its own. Attacking with faeries is cute and all, but can sometimes give your opponent ample time to just completely wreck your day. It also has little in the sense of real card draw, so finding specific cards can often be near impossible. One can only have so many Ninjas before they turn into a liability and a terrible chump-blocker. It can also be hard to maintain control over a game once you’ve achieved it, since so many of your cards are blanks.
These are the main issues I will address now, attempting to develop this deck further. The first thing one should do when changing cards in a deck is make sure they know why these cards were put into the deck and what removing them means. Second, one has to have a good understanding of what the deck’s game plan is and whether the new cards actually complement that game plan better than the third ones. Checking how it affects specific matchups should be considered here as well. The third and last thing is figuring out how the change affected other components of the deck, which were made weaker (consider them for removal next, or if they are too numerous, refer again to the first step), which were made stronger and how it affected the curve. It’s all too easy to lose focus of the original problem and make unnecessary adjustments, only to figure out later that the creator of the deck had probably had a good reason for his decision in the first place.
With this in mind, I ran through the list and the games I played to figure out what I wanted. I liked the occasional Ninja, but definitely find four to be too high a number. Situations where I would want more than one were very rare, so I could definitely see myself cutting at least one. Cloud of Faeries also provided some cool moments of glory (like the mulligan to four I mentioned), but I’m not convinced it’s the best option available. As I said earlier, decks with the tricksiest creature combination has to make absolutely sure it’s not doing stuff just because it’s cute. And while getting a "free" creature is certainly cool, I just don’t think it cuts it in a format as powerful as Legacy. It’s useful to note right here that the five or six cards I’m planning to remove are all blue creatures, a playset of which comes down on turn two.
A part of the deck I’m unsure about is the Æther Vial. All of your creatures basically cost two mana anyway, so it can be a dead draw a lot of the time. The only really good use of it I see is in combination with Standstill, so the next step is figuring out how vital this combo is to the deck. While I can certainly see the allure of replacing Vial with a card that is more powerful on its own, I think the one-two punch of Vial into Standstill still warrants its inclusion, since it means you can cast Standstill even in a situation where you’re slightly behind on board, since your opponent is then limited to what they have and you can bring more men (or fae) to the table to do battle.
The last thing I found a bit strange was the mana-base. It’s actually surprisingly stable for a three-color deck, so another basic or utility land could be considered. I never drew Riptide Laboratory in a situation where it mattered, which could mean another might be in order, or that it’s not needed at all. I’m reluctant to cut Wasteland, and consistent mana is probably worth a lot more than the occasional cute trick, so that could be cut as well.
Best faerie ever?As it is, we’re looking at seven empty slots, one of which should probably be a land. This slot is the first I can fill with the fourth Wasteland, rounding out a beautiful little land destruction/tempo package. A card I love in this type of deck is Vendilion Clique, providing a swift clock unmatched in the air by anything but Tombstalker while also giving you information and a bit of hand disruption or cycling a dud as needed. The fact that it’s legendary probably means that any more than two would be overkill, as you never want it stuck in your hand. The Cloud slot, however, is very hard to fill. Blue creatures for two mana generally suck or have cute abilities, so finding a replacement could be difficult indeed. A card I considered was Quasali Pridemage, but I doubt the mana base could handle that.
So, does this mean I’m giving up? Were the last few paragraphs as useful as Norin? Would I have been much better off making Christmas cookies? I don’t think so. Because you see, thinking about changing a deck and then only doing a minor correction (or mistake) here and there is still good mental training for general deck building. Too often, we can get the idea of the necessity of change into our minds and fail to see that, sometimes, the best option is right before us, tried, tested and proven.
After all this had been said and done, here’s the (slightly) updated version of the deck:
I went ahead and added the much beloved miser’s Jitte at the cost of a Daze. While Daze is a very good card, the deck is already packing 4 Force, 3 Snare and 4 Sprites. The sideboard, as always, should be adjusted to the predicted metagame, but should probably include at least a few Threads of Disloyalty/Sower of Temptation, Engineered Explosives, graveyard hate, and a Krosan Grip or two.
Well, I suppose I’ve already said enough about a deck that I only changed four cards in, so I guess it’s time to bore you all to death with a little typical as-the-year-draws-to-a-close type of speech. Before I do that, however, I’d just like to give a shout out to benofzongo who contacted me via PM with very intriguing questions and ideas. This is also a good chance for me to invite you all to send any questions you might have to me and I’ll do my best to answer as quickly and precisely as I can!
Looking Forward, Looking Back
This year has been a good one for me. I completed the first and began the second year of university (civil engineering, for all you eager trivia fans out there), turned 20, managed to not scare my girlfriend off with my geeky ways, and became vice-president of the Slovene Tolkien Society. Woo, who’s the king of geeks? But you don’t really want to hear about that, do you? Don’t answer that.
I know what it is you want to hear about. You want to hear epic tales of slinging spells and smashing with creatures, you want to hear what I’ve learned about this great game of ours and what I’m planning on doing with it next year. Let’s go …
This year marked my venture into the Slovene Vintage League and saw me rise to second place in the span of nine tournaments. I managed to prove to myself and others that I can play Legacy and Vintage at a reasonable level and that I’m here to stay. A few months later, I did poorly at my Nationals with zero preparations due to work the two weeks prior to the tournament. I went to GP Prague as the summer was slowly receding into the golden tones of autumn and made Day 2, easily overtaking my only previous venture into high level Magic, a lackluster 5-3 at GP Rimini a year before. I had planned to go to Rome for Worlds, but a lack of money and decisions made a bit too late led me to miss out the nearest Worlds I’m likely to see before the last year of university. That sucked, but I didn’t let it take away my resolve, coming out stronger and more focused than ever.
I also started writing articles for this website, something you’ve probably noticed by now. I’m really enjoying doing this, it’s helping me learn a lot and develop my skills as a player as well as a writer. There seem to be so many websites out there providing articles and it feels great to be a part, no matter how small, of that global community. It’s a sign of the growth of Magic as a whole in this past year, a topic discussed by the great Conley Woods on ChannelFireball (http://strategy.channelfireball.com/...words-on-2009/). I suggest you read that article, right after you’ve finished this one. It’s a truly inspirational piece, worthy of its creator.
Looking forward to 2010 gives me great joy and prospect. SVL 2010 will provide me with lots of opportunities to play at a slightly more competitive level and the local Magic scene has been revived (in small part also by me!) to a position where I can actually go out and playtest just about any format I want against at least decent players. There are Grand Prix in Madrid, Brussels, Lyon, Gothenburg, Bochum and Florence, all of which are within a reasonable distance to me. I already have my plane ticket for Madrid and I’ll do my best to attend at least two more. I’ll be looking to do well at my Nationals, even going so far as to represent my country in Chiba, Japan. The last big plan I have is qualifying for Pro Tour Amsterdam. It’s Extended, a format I’ve always liked but never had the opportunity to play much. This could be my big chance to do so, so I guess I’ll be doing a bit of PTQ grinding this summer.
All in all, 2010 already seems awesome and I bet the best is yet to come. So good luck, have fun, drink responsibly, and I’ll be back in the new year, providing you with as much knowledge and tech as I can, hoping to finally make you realize: when the opportunity presents itself, ThoughtSeize it!
By Mitja Bosnič on January 7th, 2010 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now