Standard has been sort of boring lately, with basically everyone playing their same gray and predictable decks and hoping that Lorwyn will rotate before everyone decides to switch tournament games to Street Fighter 4 and Super Smash Brothers. Then suddenly came along G/W Tokens in a Technicolor dream coat bringing joy and some sort of uniqueness to the format. I’m not saying this is some sort of revolution for the format, but seeing G/W Tokens place in the Top 8 of both the Superstars and Star City Games 5k tournaments gives the indication that there’s some potential to be had from this overlooked archetype.
First let’s take a look at the two builds that did well:
Joshua Scott Honigmann
So as you can see, both decks shared a notable amount of the same cards and the overall strategy was the same. Make some tokens, get them big and then beat the opponent to death; very straightforward and linear design-wise. First, let’s see what card choices both decks agreed upon:
This set of 20 cards seems to be the “core’ of the deck, 8 mana accelerants, 8 efficient token generators and 4 Path to Exile since they run white*. Past that, they still agreed on a few other cards, just coming up with different numbers involved. Both were utilizing Overrun and Ajani Goldmane as central pump spells / finishers with the deck, with Basil’s version running more copies of these than Josh’s. Overrun is the standout here, since against many decks, an Overrun cast after Spectral Procession has hit along with any other creature is usually game over for opponents without countermagic or Volcanic Fallout at the ready. Treetop Village was also in both lists for some added reach down the road, swinging in usually as a 4/4 or larger trampler.
*Because why wouldn’t you?
So we find that a general consensus of the core cards between the two decks, taking small sample size into account, are the aforementioned 20 along with some numbers of Ajani Goldmane, Overrun and 22-23 land. Now I believe the exact numbers of Overrun and Goldmane revolve around how devoted you are too overwhelming opponents’ with tokens and whether or not you decide to run Windbrisk Heights.
Regardless of the other differences in the builds, I find the Windbrisk Heights (non)inclusion to be far more important to how the deck ultimately looks than the other superficial choices. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Heights is one of the best cards in Standard and that the deck plays enough token producers to get it activated consistently. So why leave it out? After playing the deck, the best counter argument seems to be that you really don’t want to play it turn 1 over a mana accelerant if you have Procession. If you have an optimal draw, you won’t be able to actually use Heights until turn 4 at the earliest. On the other hand, with an unoptimized draw the deck can have problems with the CIPT lands competing with one another for early play. Having 7-8 lands that can’t make mana immediately can really screw up how much early pressure you can get out consistently.
The final issue is that Windbrisk is effectively useless if the opponent has means to deal with a multitude of tokens. Ultimately G/W Tokens doesn’t have an early reusable source of token generation like Bitterblossom in B/W Tokens or an early creature rush like Kithkin. Sometimes just powering out some mana accelerators and throwing Overrun down can be enough to buy some leeway, but the rest of the time if your tokens get dealt with you are left holding the bag. At this point I’m inclined to go with Windbrisk Heights, simply because any good way to getting more spells down later in the game is an A+ in my book. The deck simply runs out of gas too quickly just using the small number of token producers and pump effects. One interesting concession to that is the use of Elvish Visionary in the SCG model, giving the deck a cheap creature to be pumped down the line while cantripping toward better spells.
In summary, it’s simply consistency for hitting your drops on the early turns versus the sheer power of Windbrisk. Personally I feel for a deck like this you want to squeeze as much power as I can out of it. The deck is already at the mercy of topdecks and hitting the right cards to negate the opponent’s defenses in time for it to matter. So I’m willing to take the hit early and go with it unless testing showed that it was vastly underachieving (Spoiler: It didn’t).
So to go along with that, I definitely want the 3rd Ajani and Overrun as both are great to hit off Windbrisk and really power up how much damage my tokens do in the first place. This gives us a foundation of the following: 20 core cards, 3 Overrun, 3 Ajani Goldmane and 23 land including Treetop and Windbrisk. This base leaves us with 11 more slots to work with and it’s at this point we need to address Volcanic Fallout and the limited number of token generators / threats in the deck.
The tricky part now is figuring out what sort of additional threats we really want to run in the deck. Answers are pretty simple; the deck can support Burrenton Forge-Tender in the main if you see enough red decks and Fallout to be a notable problem while board options include Cloudthresher and Guttural Response against Faeries. So what threats are there? Stillmoon Cavalier takes a long time to really get going, isn’t great against Faeries and even heavy white decks have prepped for him with Mogg Fanatic’s invading even Kithkin decks. Chameleon Colossus is too expensive and narrow to really make an impact and the same goes for maindeck Cloudthresher. Interestingly enough there is another token generator we can run which can net three total creatures for four mana. Remember Hunting Triad?
Sure, the tokens don’t fly, but the important factor is that it’s another token generator that can be played on turn three. Now you can start to get into the number of token generators you really want to see in this type of deck, especially if we’re going with the Overrun and Ajani Goldmane plan. Martial Coup is similar in nature, but the fact that you are paying effectively one more mana than any other token generator for the same number of guys is a significant downside. Sure, it becomes really strong in long drawn out games and destroys the B/W version of the deck. Give it a medal or something and stick it into the sideboard. Kick in Elspeth for some additional token generators and pumping effects and I’d dare say we have a deck.
Elspeth GW Tokens
Now the sideboard obviously isn’t very good, because I’m not 100% on what matches will need to be fixed exactly. So until we get some concrete testing done we’ll go with generally good things like, ‘anti-Fae, anti-Tokens, anti-Planeswalker, etc’.
Since the MODO Championship Qualifier season has just begun, I decided to run this version of the deck through five 8-man queues to get an idea of how it ran and some real data on here. I won’t bore you with the details, rather just the raw data I gathered.
Matches won – 8 (1-1, 0-1, 3-0, 3-0, 1-1)
Mulligans taken in seven games, two of which went down to five
Deck VS record:
Fae – 3-2
RDW – 2-0
5cc – 0-2
Doran – 1-0
Opening hand-wise, the deck was a little weaker than I had anticipated, often getting hands of lands and mana accelerators with nothing worth accelerating into. Others had the distinct problem of having a distinct lack of white sources which kept early Spectral Procession from becoming a threat. Otherwise the results were pretty clear. Faeries would sometimes just get steamrolled by an onslaught of tokens and pump effects, while if they could stay close to me until about turn six the game swung drastically in their favor. Often I would only win the close games due to my opponent’s not anticipating how much damage I could deal in a single turn.
Red Deck Loses just had no shot against maindeck Forge-Tenders and the ability to consistently make my guys large with Ajani Goldmane. Multiple Fallout into Siege-Gang Commander was the only way red could come close to beating me and post-board the Finks took care of part of that issue.
Five-color largely stomped on me because I would mulligan, they would sweep the board and then I’d have one notable threat left to throw down with. Needless to say, it wasn’t difficult for them to usually muster up another sweeper or Broken Ambitions to stop me. In one close game, my opponent simply chained Cryptic Command to keep my damage level in check and got multiple Broodmate Dragons down to simply outclass my forces. This is the match that will likely require the most attention in the future, even though the games were helped in their favor by mulligan issues.
The 8-mans I won were largely me just being able to control the combat step and the stack and simply run my opponents over. Decks relying on spot removal or large creatures playing as defenders simply can’t stop a horde of tokens when back by Overrun or multiple turns of Ajani Goldmane usage. It doesn’t really surprise me decks like RDW or Doran simply can’t stop me from playing my game and essentially goldfishing them while dealing with one problem card on occasion.
So despite winning two 8-mans, I really want the deck to lean toward more consistency and have a bit more game against 5c control. Elspeth served me well, giving me reusable tokens in the face of sweepers and doing a much better job against controlling decks than Hunting Triad was. Against other aggro Triad was slightly more effective, but I think the 4th Elspeth might just be better, legend rule be damned. Elvish Visionary was another standout, often times the cantrip effect plus body would put me much closer to getting a full board than any non-Cloudgoat Ranger card in the deck. Treetop Village was overall a large disappointment as I only used it against 5c, but made life awkward for me in every other match. It might be better as another Forest or two along with a singleton Exotic Orchard or Reflecting Pool. I also highly question the red splash concept since this deck has a really fragile color-fixing strategy if the one-drops are killed off; as they often are when the sweepers start hitting the board.
Well that’s all for this week, I’ll continue working on the deck over the next week or so as it’s probably the most fun I’ve had with Standard in quite a while. Plus winning two 8-mans isn’t horrific, as the Qualifier Point system only rewards winning the whole shebang instead of consistently coming in 2nd.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom