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Exploring Modern Fae


One of the fun questions people often love to ask other Magic players is:

"What is your favorite Magic card?"

While many people associate me with Green creature decks from my time spent playing Kiki Chord in Modern, my favorite Magic card is a callback to a time before I ever registered my first Birds of Paradise. For those of you who pay attention to my header image here on Gathering Magic, this probably is not a surprise for you:

Spellstutter Sprite

Sadly, Spellstutter Sprite is not a card that sees a ton of play in powerful decks in Modern. That being said, every so often I like to spend a little while exploring all the possibilities for one of the most fun cards Magic has to offer. Today, I would like to share with you all the various iterations of Spellstutter-powered Fae decks I have been testing recently.

Let's start with an iteration of what likely goes through the mind of most Magic players when Faeries are mentioned in Modern -- ub.

ub Faeries gets to leverage what is arguably the best card you can pair with Spellstutter Sprite:


Bitterblossom is powerful with Spellstutter not only because it creates an endless stream of Faerie tokens, but also because Bitterblossom is a Faerie itself. In addition to enabling Spellstutter, Bitterblossom also enables us to play another card that I have been fairly impressed with in Modern:

Mistbind Clique

Mistbind Clique is a relatively fast and evasive clock and can also provide us with an effective time walk when we tap all of our opponent's lands during their upkeep. The Champion ability combos well with Bitterblossom tokens, and if our life total is getting too low, we can even Champion the Bitterblossom itself.

This deck also gets to leverage what is some of the most efficient disruption Modern has to offer:

Inquisition of Kozilek
Fatal Push

Modern is very much a format about tempo and being able to play all of our cards before we die, so having a selection of quality one-mana spells means that we will have a chance to do this fairly often.

The card I think has lent the most to the power level of ub Fae in recent years is Modern all-star Collective Brutality. Brutality is versatile in that it both provides us with removal and disruption and allows us to buffer our life total when needed to keep Bitterblossom going. It also allows us to turn excess copies of Blossom or Vendilion Clique we might not want to play out into a relevant effect.

I think the thing I like the most about ub Fae is how clean and painless the mana base is. We get to play a bunch of extra untapped dual lands thanks to Secluded Glen. We also get to hit our land drops consistently in the early game without getting punished for flooding in the late game thanks to creature lands like Mutavault and Creeping Tar Pit.

All of this being said, there are two things I find a bit lacking while sticking to just two colors. The first is that Blue and Black lack clean answers to problem permanents such as artifacts and enchantments. The second is that a tempo deck that lacks a decent amount of reach can often struggle to close out those last few points of damage in a lot of games.

Thankfully, Modern gives us tools that are pretty reasonable at splashing into a third color. Up next, I would like to take a look at two different takes on splashing a third color into ub Fae:

This might be a bit ambitious overall, but personally, I really like the idea of playing Tireless Tracker in basically every midrange deck that can make Green Mana in Modern. Between Tracker and Bitterblossom, this is easily the grindiest build of Fae possible.

Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse also act as some of the best "clean up" cards in Modern. It allows us to remove basically anything that slips through our discard and counterspells onto the table.

This all being said, a full third color splash like this comes at a real cost in Modern. Our mana base is slightly more painful and far more susceptible to Blood Moon.

One way to play three colors and not be quite as bad against Blood Moon is to make that third color be Red:

There is a lot to be said for having access to the card Lightning Bolt in Modern. Because this format has so much diversity, having a card that is as flexible as Lightning Bolt goes a long way. Against aggressive decks, Bolt acts as a removal spell. Against control decks, it acts as reach. Against decks playing Planeswalkers, it serves to keep them in check easily.

Unlike the Sultai build above, this Grixis configuration is much more ub splashing a few flexible Red cards. The first time I picked up Mistbind Clique with Kolaghan's Command, I was fairly sold on this being the best iteration of ub Fae that I had played so far.

All of that being said, the more I play Faeries in Modern, the more I come to the conclusion that the format is just a touch too brutal for grindy cards like Bitterblossom. While these ub Fae decks are fantastic against the other interactive decks in the format, there is enough variety that we tend to get run out by the various combo and aggressive decks that we are bound to run into throughout the course of most events.

Even with this in mind, my desire to play Spellstutter Sprite was not sated. This lead me back to an old favorite in Modern --ur Fae. For those who are unfamiliar, this is a deck I played a great deal during 2013 and 2014 when Pod and Twin were both still legal. In 2013 I Top 16'd a Grand Prix with the following deck list:

In addition to the format changing through bannings, ur has gained a variety of great tools in the last few years that did not exist the last time I played this archetype. Most importantly, these include Spirebluff Canal as a ur "Fast" Land as well as Wizard's Lightning as additional reach or removal past our four copies of Lightning Bolt.

After some testing, ur Fae is currently my top choice for the upcoming Modern Open in Indy at the end of the month. This archetype plays exactly the type of Magic I love with lots of flash creatures and decision points.

As of writing this article my current ur list is:

If you have never played a Counter-Burn deck before, you will be in for a real treat trying this out. Every non-Delver spell in this main deck is instant speed. This creates a lot of really great play patterns when playing a land and passing the turn back to our opponent. It is extremely hard for our opponents to play around the variety of things we could have in most situations.

If you want to see some gameplay of this deck in action, check out my YouTube archive here.

Wrapping Up

While I would love to be playing Bitterblossom, I just do not think this card really pulls its weight in enough matches of Modern. Thankfully, the ur Delver Fae list has felt both fun to play and extremely competitive. I think I am likely going to end up working on it some more as I prepare for the open in Indy at the end of July.

Have you played Fae recently? If so, what are your thoughts on the archetype in general? Do you think the more controlling builds with Bitterblossom have merit or should you favor being more aggressive?

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