I almost feel like I’m writing a Ben Stark Limited archetype article. It turns out that the token creature tribe got just enough from Dominaria to make itself seen in Standard as well.
Llanowar Elves has opened the door for green decks to do impressive things. Getting to cast your spells a turn early has always been great, but it’s been a while since we’ve had acceleration as early as turn 1. The old adage of “Bolt the Bird” is certainly true here, as a turn-1 Llanowar Elves can produce starts nobody can compete with.
From there, you want to curve out with cards that produce Saprolings, and a turn-2 Yavimaya Sapherd is perfect for the job. It provides multiple bodies and 3 points of both power and toughness before any additional buffers. Saproling Migration gives you a solid play both early and late. With just 2 mana, you can get a pair of tokens at a rate we’ve seen throughout Standard formats from cards like Dragon Fodder. To mitigate how much weaker these spells will be later in the game, Migration has a kicker cost that allows you to get double the tokens when you have 6 mana at your disposal. Spore Swarm fits right in the middle of the mana curve, but it also provides one of the few ways to make creatures at instant speed. When talking about mostly sorcery-speed removal and sweepers, Spore Swarm can punish an opponent looking to clean up a messy board.
The biggest issue with Saproling strategies, as well as any tokens, in Standard is that Goblin Chainwhirler is public enemy #1. One of the best cards out of the most popular decks in Standard being able to wipe your board is a big issue, but you have a few ways to help combat that.
Sporecrown Thallid is an excellent lord for your deck and allows you to pump your team out of Chainwhirler range. These stack well, so the more Sporecrowns you draw, the better you’ll be doing. Being able to curve Migration or Sapherd into a Sporecrown Thallid leaves you with a ton of power on the board and the ability to close the game quickly.
For just a few more mana, you also have Tendershoot Dryad. This thing requires an immediate answer or it will take over the game like a much cheaper Verdant Force. A token on each player’s upkeep will flood the board in short order, and ascend to the city’s blessing quickly, and at that point all of your Saprolings will be massive. It’s important to note that neither Tendershoot nor Sporecrown are legendary, so you can continue to stack these effects to make sure that a single removal spell plus Chainwhirler won’t ruin your day.
If you can’t pump your team, a creature like Slimefoot, the Stowaway can still punish an opponent looking to sweep away your Saprolings. Draining them for a point for each Saproling adds up quickly, and this is a nice late-game mana sink to make more Saprolings. Metallic Mimic unfortunately also dies to Chainwhirler, but it can put enough +1/+1 counters on Saprolings before it goes down for the count.
With all of the 1/1 creatures floating around, the value of an evasive, lifelink Vehicle goes up. Aethersphere Harvester can keep up the damage while your Saprolings are clogging up the ground.
Playing black means that you have access to the best removal Standard has to offer. Fatal Push provides the tempo while Cast Down and Vraska’s Contempt can deal with many of the biggest threats. You also have a single copy of Vicious Offering as a way to kill both Glorybringer and Lyra with your extra Saprolings.
The token strategies don’t have the easiest time against Goblin Chainwhirler, but being able to pump your team and reload with more and more creatures means that G/B Saprolings has the tools to fight against the best.