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Silvestri Says – Tokens for Regionals

 

With Regionals this upcoming weekend, I figure now would be good to focus attention to the most played decks at the various PTQ’s thus far, BW Tokens and GW Tokens. Now to be fair, BW does take up the majority of slots on the popularity scale, but considering the power level of GW and the similarities in strategy it seems most efficient to cover both together. These decks pack a dangerous combination of powerful opening plays, synergistic answers to common sweepers and mulligan well. It won’t be a shock to me if many Regionals contained a third to half the field playing Token strategies. From what I’ve been told, BW Token in particularly was nearly half the San Diego PTQ field and the Richmond PTQ wasn’t far off either.

First of all, what are the advantages of one version of Tokens over the other?

Upsides of GW Tokens:

1. Mana acceleration / better color fixing from Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise and Steward of Valeron.

2. Resilience to sweepers by playing creatures with more than 2 toughness (Dauntless Escort and Wilt-Leaf Liege) along with Kitchen Finks and Treetop Village and the ability to save creatures from a sweeper directly via Escort’s ability.

3. The quickest kill mechanism in Standard thanks to Overrun.

Upsides of BW Tokens:

1. Resilience to sweepers by playing multiple Persist creatures and 10-12 token producers.

2. Zealous Persecution which can be a better Wrath effect when in a mirror match or a mini-Overrun to end the game from out of nowhere*. Considering the field at PTQ’s up until now, this is a pretty huge point in BW’s favor.

3. Some amount of disruption via Tidehollow Sculler and Identity Crisis against control or Mana Ramp decks. Thoughtseize as well, if one were so inclined.

*Since all of BW’s pump effects are at sorcery speed unless Glorious Anthem gets played from under Windbrisk Heights

Since LSV already covered BW Tokens a short time ago here. I won’t go into heavy details about why the deck is awesome. I’ll simply state that you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t maindecking at least 3 Zealous Persecution with the number of Token decks seeing play. I do, however, want to make a note about an interesting variant on normal BW that was played to Top 4 at the Philly Open this weekend.

Peter Grube (3rd/4th)

Junk Tokens

 

Sure this deck gets sucker punched by Anathemancer, but what deck doesn’t? The addition of Green brings only a slight butchering of the already greedy mana base and gives us yet a new card to win the Token mirror with. With Sigil Captain and even more token producers (15 total!) combined with the full set of Murderous Redcap, the deck seems to try to one-up the average token decks. Not only is this deck more than willing to throw away it’s guys in futile gestures of defense, it actively seems to just to do anything it can to stay alive until Sigil Captain resolves. Of course, if the Captain lives, you’ll have quite the edge as you gain a huge permanent boost to your men.

The downsides to this variation, other than the mana being even more awkward than the average version, are in fact the replacement of Ajani Goldmane in the maindeck by Sigil Captain. Yes, Sigil Captain makes your men insane and Murderous Redcap very difficult to beat. Problems begin in other matches where attacking is optimal, but you don’t have enough creatures to hold the fort at the same time. This reduces your options into taking rough guesses of how many men you need back to live versus giving them additional time. Goldmane avoids that entire issue thanks to Vigilance, and yes, I realize it’s in the board, but that just adds to my point. Ajani Goldmane is really good in this type of deck and doesn’t hurt the mana, so why ship it to the board? What strikes me as even more interesting is the 4th Sigil Captain over the 4th Zealous Persecution, since running Sigil Captain seems like a major coup for the mirror, yet Persecution is cheaper and dare I say, better in the mirror, but it still gets shafted with just three.

If anything, the most interesting aspects of the deck come from the sideboard. Necrogenesis is a subtle answer to the whole Anathemancer issue while at the same time hating on decks like Reveillark which can be a bit of a tosser if properly constructed. Also rounding out the board thanks to the green addition is Maelstrom Pulse which obviously helps against Tokens.

Wait a minute, what the hell was the point of this deck again? It looks massively configured to be better in the token mirrors, but Ajani Goldmane is in the board, the main removal which happens to double as awesome against other Planeswalkers and armies of 1/1’s. Instead it seems to of actually downgraded itself in multiple areas to shoehorn Sigil Captain in, instead of augmenting the core cards that are actually good with its addition. What was the point? Oh right, showing what could be done! That perhaps this could in fact be good ideas, just with some poor execution involved.

As for GW Tokens, I have yet to see an optimal build, but I think people are getting closer. Upon some deep personal reflections, I’ve been convinced that Steward of Valeron is in fact not the equivalent of a submarine made out of wafers and that Cloudthresher is actually quite good in the maindeck. Why is Steward good? It has a clearly defined job in the early game (accelerate, possibly beat for 2 or 4 damage against control or Faeries) and then turns into a solid attacker and blocker with any pump effect in play. As for the Thresher, it obviously helps beat up on Faeries, but being able to clear a notable chunk of the board G1 in a token mirror is great. Yes, Wrath of God is the traditional way of blowing everything up, but game one it isn’t quite as effective having such a symmetrical card in the maindeck. Thresher only hates you if you’ve been sitting on your own Procession tokens the entire time, while the rest of the time it provides a huge body and a way to take down Demigod of Revenge, Broodmate Dragon or any other obnoxious flier.

This is my current GW list and I will update in the forums if I have any drastic revelations before Regionals. Note though, that I may not play this deck for lack of cards.

GW Tokens

The sideboard Sigil Captain looks out of place, but the 4th Ajani wasn’t working well and I wanted another way to power my men up while still having a threat. Glorious Anthem can provide part of that solution, but the 3/3 body can be a legitimate threat over a long match consisting of so many 1/1 guys. Otherwise there isn’t anything too special about this list, although I note David Irvine played 0 copies of Dauntless Escort in his build of GW tokens, which seems poor with so many removal spells flying around.

Alternatively you could go with the previous suggestion I made further up in the article and modify this deck in such a way to be better in the Token mirror by adding black. Hm swap Noble Hierarch with Birds of Paradise, throw in Zealous Persecution and Maelstrom Pulse over Path to Exile and Thresher in the maindeck and suddenly you have an off-shoot that takes the mirror very seriously and has multiple mini-Wraths for it. Of course, this is all theory, but I’ll gladly say I invented this archetype and reserve all credit in case anyone plays some variant and does well. If not, you can bet your pathetic bankroll up against me and it’s go time, ERRRRRR. Moving on now

Match-up wise, the summary from testing looks like so:

B/W Tokens: Even to slightly favorable, depending on number of Persecution and Murderous Redcap. They have the one sided Wrath, but you run a bunch of creatures that don’t care and Overrun which they have no out against outside of Sculler. I have an overall winning record, but the decks are so similar in certain respects it feels too much like a mirror to declare a true edge.

G/W Tokens: Even. Although Dauntless Escort gives you an edge over the builds that don’t run it, proving Wrath and alpha strike resilience.

B/R: Slighty favorable, even against some post-board configurations. Sounds weird, I’m sure, for a green deck not to crush red. However even with my super aggressive version of R/B which isn’t very strong against this type of midrange, I could still effectively play the beatdown role. Anathemancer and careful use of Volcanic Fallout / Infest can buy a lot of time and damage even in the face of 3/3 and 4/4 creatures which typically are big deals. Forge-Tenders are annoying, but Chaotic Backlash and Deathmark can make up for all the lost damage. I think GW would be favored over enough games, but with the sample sizes and common lines of play I see, the match is far closer to even than expected.

5cc: Depends entirely on construction, but usually unfavorable. A multitude of Wrath effects, combined with counters and solid power cards like Broodmate Dragon will just punish this deck with the higher curve and slower beatdown roots. Of course against a deck like Chapin’s new 5c variation, GW is highly favored and the average match is a complete rout. Expect the worst, but don’t be surprised if the opponent has less answers than you expect.

Faeries: Even. See the 5cc issues, but remove the sweepers part. They can out-tempo you straight out of the game, but otherwise have to beat a multitude of tokens, 3-power green monsters along with Cloudthreshers and Guttural Response. It is by no means an easy match for the Fae player, and he can simply be overwhelmed if he lacks Mistbind Clique or misses a key counter on Ajani Goldmane or Overrun.

As for the R/B aggro deck I posted about last week, I played it to a horrific 1-3 record at my local GPT this past weekend. Although there were some poor choices made, in large part I simply punted away games where I would be left in a favorable position. Nearly all my errors can be attached to bad mulligans, misjudging the value of Figure of Destiny; or in one special case, killing myself with double Volcanic Fallout and an opposing Kitchen Finks.

In many of my matches I was forced into a controlling role and so I configured a new version of the deck to that role starting from the word go.

Rakdos Aggro

Demigod of Revenge is back because of how many sweepers you pack post-board, easily clearing the way for him. It takes very few swings to end the game when combined with the other burn spells / haste creatures in your deck. Murderous Redcap makes an appearance to help out against green decks and Tokens by dealing some early damage and chumping or trading with a random dork. The fact that it beats the crap out of the red mirror and the BW Kithkin variant running around as ‘tech’ is also a bonus.

Other than that, all I really have to say about the deck is:

Demigod of Revenge and Volcanic Fallout are amazing together

– I am never unhappy to draw Anathemancer (ever)

Balefire Liege is worth the slot*

Guttural Response is insane against Five-Color Control

– The deck is no longer miserable against everything and in fact quite competent in the Token, GW and 5cc matches.

There are a few ridiculous ideas I’m working on that probably won’t work out, no matter how awesome Bloom Tender + Borderposts into Reveillark is, however if I have any luck with them I’ll post them in the forums. Best of luck at Regionals and I’ll see you next week.

Josh Silvestri

Email me at: joshsilvestriATchannelfireballDOTcom

*p.s. Balefire Liege is the worst card in the deck, and doesn’t deserve the slot. I suggest a miser’s Bituminous Blast or Banefire. If you’re feeling cheeky though, Slave of Bolas or Wild Ricochet are silver bullet cards that could just destroy people in a few rare situations.

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