Utter Beatings – Rational Backlash


As recently as a few weeks ago WB Tokens was not being afforded the proper respect, but now the opposite has occurred. The current Tokens mania is just absurd. The level of Tokens being played is not sustainable; Tokens is just another good deck in a format full of good decks. It happened to be especially well positioned for awhile, but it certainly isn’t now that it is by far the most played deck. It’s like Boat Brew all over again. A reasonable deck picks up a little bit of traction and a little bit of hype, and suddenly the momentum snowballs completely out of control. But the natural response to everyone else picking up a deck should not be to jump on board, it should be to play something that beats the crap out of that deck. Rational heads will soon prevail.

Turbo Fog

And no, resorting to Turbo Fog is not rational. It is a gimmick, not a deck. Turbo Fog has a number of auto-losses and its good matchups are not even insane. Even against Tokens, you have to contend with Sculler and Thoughtseize stripping your only Howling Mine effects, and you have to avoid getting burned out by Redcaps. Between Redcaps, Anthems, and Wraths, it is not difficult for WB to burn you out all the way from 20. The biggest problem with Turbo Fog is that anyone who cares about beating it can easily do so with almost no effort. All it takes is WB boarding a couple Everlasting Torments and suddenly WB can mulligan to zero every game and Turbo Fog still could not possibly win the match.

You are going to see plenty of control decks rise up to combat Tokens. It is not hard to build a control deck to crush these inbred White decks. I don’t know whether it will be Broodmate Dragons and Cruel Ultimatums or Master Transmuters and Sharuums or whatever else, just that Tokens-munching decks are going to start to be big players. Scourglass should be seeing a ton of play right now, as there is no better card against Tokens. Volcanic Fallout isn’t making its presence known, as the decks that use it are not yet tuned well enough. 5cc and Red aggro are the decks that should be using Fallout to beat Tokens, but aren’t because the current lists are simply not good. Volcanic Fallout is too good a spell to not have a home in a successful deck; good builds of Fallout decks will be found and adopted.

Faeries is going to come back in a big way. The anti-Fae hype is as out of control as the Tokens fervor. Why is Faeries suddenly such a bad choice, other than everyone saying it is? If Bloodbraid Elves and Anathemancers were running rampant, I would be the first to put down the Mistbind Cliques, but that is not the case right now. Zealous Persecution is nowhere near as problematic as everyone seems to believe.

I fully expect Faeries to have the highest Top 8 conversion rate throughout the PTQ season. This is based not on any expected metagame trends, but just the observation that Faeries is the hardest deck in the format to play against. No deck better punishes poor play, and you should expect little else in the swiss of PTQs. There is a reason Faeries has dominated local events since its inception, while it has performed much more modestly at pro-level events.

I also think that Faeries is going to be well positioned in the coming weeks. The control decks that start emerging to beat Tokens are going to be very soft to Faeries. If 5cc re-emerges, it will be at least reasonable against Fae, but any other decks that pop up are not likely to be. They are probably all going to be heavily focused on expensive sorcery speed spells, the perfect Fae prey. Fae vs Tokens has always been a very close matchup, but the Tokens decks becoming more and more inbred trying to get advantages in the mirror bodes very well for Faeries. Nice Wraths. I don’t feel like Zealous Persecution actually gives WB any edge. So WB gained a trump to previously awesome Scions and Stillmoons; if you don’t play those cards, Persecution is quite marginal, and you don’t need those cards to build a Faeries deck that is good against Tokens. The plan I currently like best is to sit behind Plumeveils and Infests while beating them with Jace. Loxodon Warhammer is so insane in the matchup, and in particular with this very controlling gameplan, that I even support playing multiples. Without dwelling too much on Faeries, this is what I would have played in Regionals, and which Matt Nass played to a top 8:



While we are on the subject of irrational Tokens hype…

Everyone is jamming as many maindeck Zealous Persecutions into their Tokens lists as possible, trying to get an edge against other Procession decks, but I just don’t see it. Zealous Persecution seems much less important to me in mirrors and psuedo-mirrors than Anthem and Ajani. I’m sure Persecution absolutely crushes donks, as you do have to play carefully to mitigate its effects, and maybe that is enough to make it insane. But against a real player, someone who will know to make plays like leading with Anthem and then playing Procession and will attack and block with few creatures to play around it, it just isn’t going to be getting good value often.

Consider a game where you and your opponent both have Procession, and you have a Persecution in hand to their Anthem in play. Assuming your opponent plays correctly, you are very much behind. If he attacks and blocks with only one token, Persecution will never do more than trade for a single Procession token. Obviously in a real game boards get more cluttered and it will be easier to get value out of Persecution, but Anthem also gets better with more creatures on the board. Similar careful play should be able to keep Persecution from being better than Anthem in most any board state. Persecution will trade for some bodies and most likely some damage, whereas Anthem generates a ton of value over the course of a game. Especially in the Wrath-based sideboarded games, I would much prefer the long game effect of Anthem to the short-term burst of Persecution. Whatever your plan for the mirror, it should start with four Anthem and four Ajani, and add Persecutions from there. As more decks that are not token-based start being played, Persecution is only going to get worse.

I’m not convinced that Identity Crisis is better than Head Games, but the rest of the world seems to be, so I am willing to concede that argument. Regardless, Identity Crisis is such a marginal upgrade that it is hardly worthy of note. I’m pretty sure if Identity Crisis was in 10th and Head Games was just released, everyone would be excitedly stuffing Head Games into their sideboards.

Terror is better than Path and it isn’t close. I get that Path is a slight improvement in the mirror, but it’s not like you want to be Pathing Scullers and Finks and Redcaps anyways. Either card gets boarded out, so you might as well play the one that is much better (and yes, it is much better) against everything else if you are going to play one at all (and I do consider playing neither a perfectly reasonable decision). If anything, the argument for Path over Terror has gotten even weaker recently. The shift to a more top-heavy curve in Tokens makes Terror as a turn two play much more important, and you absolutely do not want to be Pathing that early against any deck in the format.

Tokens is a very good deck, but the current hype is overblown. People aren’t examining their options well enough. There are more decks in the format than just WB, and the sooner people realize this, the better prepared they will be for the inevitable metagame backlash.


17 thoughts on “Utter Beatings – Rational Backlash”

  1. How is Identity Crisis a marginal upgrade from Head Games when for one more mana you can: remove a graveyard, nullifying cards such as Anathamancer and those that can be Lark’d, and not thin an opponent’s deck of land when giving replacement cards with Head Games. If you can play it, wouldn’t Identity Crisis always be the choice over Head Games? Let me know what I’m not seeing here.

  2. Plumeveil in Faeries is definitely a beating. The card makes the deck, and Faeries is likely the best control deck around right now. I would suggest a fourth infest in the board, as some matchups truly demand it.

  3. “It's like Boat Brew all over again.”

    That’s the single best line I’ve read about Magic in quite a while. Thanks, Josh!

  4. “All it takes is WB boarding a couple Everlasting Torments and suddenly WB can mulligan to zero every game and Turbo Fog still could not possibly win the match.”

    This is why turbo fog should be running Celestial Purge in the board… also kills Sculler.

  5. Celestial Purge won’t be enough to give TurboFog the edge though. You’re talking about putting in four cards to combat eight in the WB deck – and the Scullers can fight the Purge right back. When the “Turbo” aspect is intent on giving both players as many cards as possible, this doesn’t seem like a great plan to me. I think Josh is right – TurboFog is still dead in the matchup..

  6. I’m sorry, but this entire article seems to be pulled completely out of your ass without any form of backing. Has there even been testing behind those suggestions, claims or rants about cards working/not working?
    Let me pick a few things:

    “Scourglass should be seeing a ton of play right now, as there is no better card against Tokens.”
    Scourglass is somehow better than austeer command for instance…

    “but it's not like you want to be Pathing Scullers and Finks and Redcaps anyways.”
    Have you even played this out EVER? you most deffinitelly like to have answers to redcap and finks, those cards are insane with the whole sb plan against the mirror.

    Once again by testing you would know that zealous persecution is GREAT against the mirror. And the solution of playing around that card in the mirror like you said is wrong. You cant just start off with anthem, especially on the draw. You will be completely blown out for being too slow. Its great against ajani too. In addition, later in the match when there need to blocks made for or against you, Its a complete blowout. Its kind of like mirrorweave in the kithkin decks during block season. Noone wants to play it first unless the other is tapped out, and you may end up using it deffensively, still though its an AMAZING card against the mirror. I also disagree with playing more than a 1 of in the main.

    Lastly, Identity crisis is far better than headgames. When you resolve either of those agaisnt 5cc you are not way ahead usually. Giving the 5cc player 4-5 land means that there are 4-5 land in there deck less for them to draw. In testing 5cc has outdrawn the BW about 4 out of 10 games. Headgames will not remove the graveyard also. So a cruel ultimatum is a lot more relevant off the top for 5cc. On the other hand identy crisis leaves him topdecking without being able to use resources like his graveyard, and doesn’t thin his deck out, letting him draw better.

    Essentially I think that your claims are comical without what seems like any testing or proof to back them up.

  7. There is 4 negates and 4 cryptics also, and game 1 seems almost an auto win most of the time for Turbo Fog (assuming you are running the 4 halos md instead of the tezzeret + extra borderposts thing). 4 negates, 4 cryptics, lots of draw, set halos on things like sculler, redcap, etc, and some number of celestial purge or some other torment kill seems decent. I guess there is the possibility of overwhelming them by assembling something like 3 heights with a torment or two underneath along with an identity crisis/scullers/thoughtseize in one critical turn but it doesn’t quite seem like an absolute free win. Glen Elendra Archmage seems another idea out of turbo fog’s board since everybody boards out all their creature kill against them since the majority of the hate cards people bring in are spells. I’m not saying turbo fog is necessarily actually a good deck right now but I don’t think it’s quite as simplistic as just saying torment kills it.

  8. turbo fog has access to sb in dispellere’s capsule.
    its good matchups ARE insane.
    “getting burned out by redcaps” – plizz!!! how many times you want to cast wog/activate ajani/have glorius anthems in play ? turbo fog plays 2 runed halo main + 2 in sb… and WB tokens decks have only 60 cards

    but all you said about fearies – 100% agree

  9. ” i fully expect fearies to have the highest top 8 conversion rate throughout the PTQ season” thats great if it actually happens, let me know how many PTQ’s it wins so a couple of good players show up with it and manage to top 8 mainly on superior skill that dosnt make it a good deck anymore and the fact that the list has four plumeveils makes the reasoning suspect i just dont see that deck wining a PTQ

  10. Hey

    I know your article isn’t about Faes, but why 4 peppersmoke in a format with so many pump spells?

  11. Yea, I have to disagree with this article on several points.
    1: Turbofog is a viable deck, much more than grinding ever was. It has a near auto-win Game 1 vs anything without lots of burn (anathemancer is a null card, redcap isn’t enough by itself). Everlasting torment can be a problem card, but Purge, negate, and cryptic command all provide ways to deal with it easily. Scourglass is pretty meh vs tokens by the way, a turn 6 wrath won’t cut it.
    2: Identity crisis is better than head games. One more CMC in exchange for stopping graveyard issues and not thinning out their deck is worth it.
    3: Zealous persecution is good vs fae. it massacres bitterblossom tokens, can allow more damage to be pushed through, and generally is good. It’s not always amazing, but its rarely dead.
    4: I would skip faeries at the moment because of the amount of red-based aggro decks that are running around, most with maindeck fallouts. Fallout is as good as ever, and anathemancer has given new life to the Red aggro decks.
    5: Terror is good. So is path. Terror is better on turn 2, but path stops so many problem cards later in the game that it’s generally better.
    6: Your comparison of persecution to glorious anthem is flawed because persecution is not supposed to replace anthem. Also, if your opponent goes Anthem, then spectral, then they’ll be at a big tempo loss. The reason zealous is good is that it forces opponents to risk the zealous, or risk you gaining a tempo advantage, which is always huge in any mirror. Also note that you can activate a windbrisk and zealous on turn 4, which is huge if you have anything good under the heights. Note that zealous is good enough to spawn a new deck that appears to be very effective (BW ktihkin).
    Tokens may be overhyped at the moment, but there is a good reason for it. Its biggest opponent (5CC), is much less prevalent in the current standard meta, and zealous gives it the edge vs other token-based builds.

  12. @ Realz: Faeries is not a control deck. Fae is far more aggro with some control aspects thrown in because it runs blue. Those players that learn to play Fae as the aggro/tempo deck it is will be succesful in the coming PTQ season.

    I 100% agree with Faeries still being the best deck. No other deck punishes simple mistakes, sub-optimal plays, and bad draws as hard as Faeries does. Players that have used Fae in the past will need to put in more playtime and learn to play the new Token decks, but by putting in the time and effort, those that stick with the deck will be happy.

  13. Good article and your point on turbo fog not being as good against tokens as people think is true i 2-0ed it 2 times at regionals with b/w tokens and qued with it. I think it is good but not the best deck out there i just happen to really like playing it.

  14. i disagree w/ most of the bw tokens stuff aswell but i also ask whast so good about the 4 peppersmokes in fae? And do u guys think fae should run more coutners sicne the token decks?

  15. As not all the results from all the Regionals are in already, I don’t know for sure, but I have to disagree with about 90% of this article. Especially here in Michigan where the meta-game has changed and Anthamancer is King. Even DJ Kastner, a well known advocate of the Fae dropped after Round1, seeing how hostile the enviroment truley is. Fighting through Zealous, Anthamancer, Volcanic Fallout, Bloodbraid Elf, and all the stupid sweepers main to be tokens that are still solid but not great gives Fae troubles at this moment in time.

  16. redcap aint enough. T-fog is actually a viable deck, It’s just being played by shitty players right now. give the deck to someone with rating 1900+, and it would probably win more than just a japanese ptq. It’s not that it’s a good deck. It’s that it manages to blank many cards in the good decks’ lists… and very few people have spent time testing against it right now.

  17. Pingback: Unique MTG Faeries Type 2 Deck With 4 Plumeveils Main

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