I work at TCGplayer with this guy, Jon Corpora—Mr. Pretty Deece himself—who proclaims to be pretty good at Magic. I, on the other hand, am new to the Magic world. I didn't even play the game till I started at TCGplayer, but ever since I tried my hand at Legacy while trap shooting was out of season, I've been hooked. When I first started playing, Jon gave off an air of someone who, for lack of a better term, knew what he was doing. He definitely had opinions about the game, deck builds, and strategy. He's the kind of guy you hear talking and just want to knock him down a peg or two. There's just something about the tone of his voice. I knew I could figure out Magic enough to challenge him. But in what format?

I eventually called him out, and he suggested we play with his battlebox: a pile of random cards that he claimed were all his favorite cards from his childhood. He only drew from five blocks to construct it: Mercadian Masques block, Invasion block, Mirrodin block, Ravnica block, and Time Spiral block. You play by picking an inch of cards from a preshuffled box of hundreds. The cards we drew seemed balanced against each other, but he crushed me for four games. Finally in the fifth game I had him on the ropes... until he randomly pulled a Future Sight Tarmogoyf.

Really, Jon?

I gave up and called it a day.

Maybe I would fare better in Pauper, the preferred lunchtime format at TCGplayer. At this stage, I wasn't paying attention to what Jon was playing, I was 100% focused on playing my deck. I challenged him with Affinity and split the match 1-1; I came back at him with Slivers and again split the match 1-1. We could never get to that final game in our hour lunch battles. Jon, of course, always played the latest version of the consensus "best deck"—Urzatron—and never really knew how it worked, so his turns took a very long time but usually didn't add up to much, so the games got pretty drawn-out.

When we return to the office to in-person Pauper battles, I have a Skred Faeries deck sleeved and waiting for him.

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Izzet Faeries by Bill Polinsky

'Izzet Faeries' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Bill Polinsky

Event:

Rank:

Pauper

Market Price: $73.41

Cards

Dispel

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/105594_200w.jpg

Counter target instant spell.

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Shenanigans

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/191351_200w.jpg

Destroy target artifact.
Dredge 1 (If you would draw a card, you may mill a card instead. If you do, return this card from your graveyard to your hand.)

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Red Elemental Blast

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $4.66

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/161430_200w.jpg

Choose one —
• Counter target blue spell.
• Destroy target blue permanent.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/161430/magic-masters-25-red-elemental-blast

Counterspell

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.48

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/238617_200w.jpg

Counter target spell.

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Electrickery

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/66558_200w.jpg

Electrickery deals 1 damage to target creature you don't control.
Overload {1}{R} (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of "target" with "each.")

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Relic of Progenitus

Market Price: $5.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118645_200w.jpg

{T}: Target player exiles a card from their graveyard.
{1}, Exile Relic of Progenitus: Exile all graveyards. Draw a card.

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Swirling Sandstorm

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/10262_200w.jpg

Threshold — Swirling Sandstorm deals 5 damage to each creature without flying if seven or more cards are in your graveyard.

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Preordain

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/226646_200w.jpg

Scry 2, then draw a card. (To scry 2, look at the top two cards of your library, then put any number of them on the bottom of your library and the rest on top in any order.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/226646/magic-commander-legends-preordain

Frantic Inventory

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215572_200w.jpg

Draw a card, then draw cards equal to the number of cards named Frantic Inventory in your graveyard.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/215572/magic-core-set-2021-frantic-inventory

Curfew

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/6834_200w.jpg

Each player returns a creature they control to its owner's hand.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/6834/magic-urzas-saga-curfew

Fire // Ice

Color Identity:R,U

Market Price: $0.26

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/240138_200w.jpg

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/240138/magic-modern-horizons-2-fire-ice

Snow-Covered Island

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230148_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {U}.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/230148/magic-kaldheim-snowcovered-island-278

Augur of Bolas

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/187183_200w.jpg

When Augur of Bolas enters the battlefield, look at the top three cards of your library. You may reveal an instant or sorcery card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

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Spellstutter Sprite

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $2.61

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/68335_200w.jpg

Flash
Flying
When Spellstutter Sprite enters the battlefield, counter target spell with mana value X or less, where X is the number of Faeries you control.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/68335/magic-modern-masters-spellstutter-sprite

Snow-Covered Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.54

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230150_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R}.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/230150/magic-kaldheim-snowcovered-mountain-282

Skred

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.73

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/14113_200w.jpg

Skred deals damage to target creature equal to the number of snow permanents you control.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/14113/magic-coldsnap-skred

Ash Barrens

Market Price: $0.47

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/219248_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
Basic landcycling {1} ({1}, Discard this card: Search your library for a basic land card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/219248/magic-double-masters-ash-barrens

Ninja of the Deep Hours

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.86

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/171480_200w.jpg

Ninjutsu {1}{U} ({1}{U}, Return an unblocked attacker you control to hand: Put this card onto the battlefield from your hand tapped and attacking.)
Whenever Ninja of the Deep Hours deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/171480/magic-commander-2018-ninja-of-the-deep-hours

Echoing Truth

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.15

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196531_200w.jpg

Return target nonland permanent and all other permanents with the same name as that permanent to their owners' hands.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/196531/magic-commander-2019-echoing-truth

Lightning Bolt

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $2.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216484_200w.jpg

Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to any target.

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Evolving Wilds

Market Price: $0.09

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/253706_200w.jpg

{T}, Sacrifice Evolving Wilds: Search your library for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/253706/magic-innistrad-crimson-vow-evolving-wilds

Faerie Seer

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.57

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/191569_200w.jpg

Flying
When Faerie Seer enters the battlefield, scry 2.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/191569/magic-modern-horizons-faerie-seer

Gorilla Shaman

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/240057_200w.jpg

{X}{X}{1}: Destroy target noncreature artifact with mana value X.

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Blue Elemental Blast

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/161419_200w.jpg

Choose one —
• Counter target red spell.
• Destroy target red permanent.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/161419/magic-masters-25-blue-elemental-blast

Brainstorm

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/243841_200w.jpg

Draw three cards, then put two cards from your hand on top of your library in any order.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/243841/magic-commander-adventures-in-the-forgotten-realms-brainstorm

We also faced off in Modern. I hit him with Burn, Humans and Death's Shadow.  He always has an answer. He has a sixth sense for anticipating what deck I am going to play and always has the right cards to answer. It's annoying. 

Since quarantine hit, we have turned our battles to Standard on MTG Arena. Jon has created a spreadsheet that he nicknamed Bill's Sadness Journal to document my misery. We haven't gotten to play much since he made it, but so far I've been able to throw his clever little name in his face:

We recently faced off in Historic, me with Soul Sisters and Jon with Sultai Field, best-of-three with sideboarding. First game, I get the jump on him and he isn't able to catch up. Second game, here's the situation: He's at 6 life to my 45 life, and I have a Serra Ascendant. Jon had enough Zombies to take me down to 29 life and give himself a couple more turns to pull Ugin, The Spirit Dragon to lock the win up for himself. Mr. Pretty Deece failed to read Serra Ascendant card text and didn't attack, allowing me to snatch the win. Rookie mistake, Deece.  

How to beat Jon consistently? My strategy: Constantly change formats so he doesn't get comfortable, or play the mirror match and sprinkle in a little luck. Or distract him so he doesn't pay attention to the card text. And especially, don't make rookie mistakes. These are good principles to work from to win matches against anyone, but it just goes to show that it takes minimal effort to beat Jon—you just have to put that effort towards the right things.

He really isn't that good.