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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:

Faeries

 

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.

 

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